As the worst season in the Iron’s history thankfully limps to a close, it is a time to reflect and look ahead to the future.
Given the state of affairs in what was an extremely dark mid-winter at Glanford Park, the principle feeling for most Iron fans is one of relief that the club still exists.
Football clubs are a business and the balance sheet dictates how a club can function day to day and season to season. However, acquiring a football club is akin to purchasing a slice of a town’s community, particularly in a town like Scunthorpe. In essence football clubs are a very special and unique business.
At the heart of a club needs to be a bond of mutual trust and respect between the fans, local community and the ownership. The approach and actions of the previous ownership sadly saw that bond of trust and respect firmly extinguished.
The fanbase and community wants to trust and believe again; however, the new owner has inherited a fanbase and local community which is hurt and, in most cases, sceptical.
The next few months are critical to the club’s long-term future. At the heart of uniting the club is the need for proactive and reciprocal engagement and communication between the owner, the community and fanbase.
The successful return of the Glanford Park and surrounding land to the club by the end of May will also go a long way to winning the trust of many fans and rightly so, particularly if the ground is to be protected.
Simply, this deal needs to go through on-time and it needs to be the start of a new era and positive Summer.
As the club adjusts to a new level of football there has to be changes. In principle fans accept and understand this. In recent days and weeks news of change has leaked out of the club, both informally and formally.
The lack of prior engagement and in some cases the rushed method of communication has though led to unwanted speculation, scepticism and negativity. This has sadly soured relations for some, with the owner seemingly not learning from the rushed announcement of 1899 Membership scheme.
To his credit though, news either side of the Easter break indicates that the new owner has listened to feedback, established a way to keep a functioning Academy at the club and has confirmed that player training will be in Scunthorpe for the foreseeable future.
Notwithstanding this positive news, it clear that the negativity and speculation surrounding these two issues could’ve been avoided if the new owner had engaged thoroughly with its own staff (re: the future of the Academy) and key stakeholders in the fanbase to explain proposals, gain feedback and attempt to garner their support.
It appears that the new owner is listening and this is a great plus. It is time to change the negative narrative and PR around the club in the press and the community. Early and transparent engagement is required regarding any more plans for the club, its assets (when they return) and relevant matters relating to how it functions from a fan and community perspective.
The owner will likely have to make further very difficult decisions regarding club operations and will also want to put his own stamp on the club. He must bring the fanbase and community along for a ride.
Regardless as to supporters’ views on players and the current first team manager, the club needs to unite to improve matters on the pitch and restore some pride.
At times it has been tough for players in the past five years, however, the negative narrative surrounding the club has made it too easy for players and successive managers to observe the crumbling mess around them and not take responsibility for performances. The blame game on the footballing side must end.
It is not mission impossible for a united and stronger club to emerge from these darkest of times, but hard work for all lies ahead.
Up the Iron