Silvertail submission on Supporters Club

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Journey Man
Some names have been excised to protect the innocent

Dear Alan

As I live 400km from Sydney I'm not in a position to attend the meeting you're hoping to have tomorrow night to discuss the Manly supporters group. I have inhabited the nefarious underworld of the various online Sea Eagle supporter groups for the past two years and have been a passionate Manly supporter for more than twenty years. I am responsible for 9 businesses and in particular their marketing.

I don't have a lot of time at the moment but I thought I'd jot down some dot points constituting my thoughts and probably a majority of the members of the "Silvertails" ( group. I trust they prove useful as you look at the merits of this new venture.

Your hurdles:

The muted response to the supporters group meeting probably highlights the major point I have to make. If the thinking is that the supporter group will be fan/supporter driven it is doomed to failure – it won't even get off the ground. If that's the plan – don't waste your time and/or effort. These are what I see as the major hurdles you face:

Manly's supporter base is notorious for its dislike of travel to away games. It will take a Herculean to galvanise a fan base of sufficient size and no one will be able to do this on a volunteer basis.

Manly's fan base does not have any advantages of uniform ethnicity (eg the Bulldog Army) or geography (Red V).

In Sydney few of the opposition grounds are an easy travel for Manly fans.

Of all the Sydney supporter bases I suspect you will find Manly's has the greatest "income divide". You will have wealthy fans who won't deign to sit in cheap seats to be with other supporters and you will have other fans who can't afford to sit on the sidelines on a regular basis.

Because of a lack of management and the poor way some groups have been treated (even ostracised) by some members of the club's administration you have some fairly severe schisms between the various existing supporter groups. They will not galvanise together for a common cause easily.

Therefore I think the only way this idea can work is if it is entirely "owned" and "driven" from the club, and by someone who is adept at diplomacy and at gendering a spirit of inclusion. The club will have to take the leadership in the venture – I don't think it would be responsible to entrust a significant portion of the club's "image" to well-intentioned but poorly qualified and/or naïve supporters.

Leadership model:

My suggestion would be that you make it very clear that the supporter group belongs to the club and is driven by the club. The incentives for the supporters to sign up to it are:

1. Their involvement will benefit the club's long term future.

2. In large part the supporters group is a service offered by the club to enhance their enjoyment and experience of being a Manly supporter.

3. By being a part of it they will be able to have a "voice" (albeit small or even token) in the operations of the club.

4. A supporters group has immense scope to provide a sense of community, to provide the opportunity for friendships that are increasingly difficult to forge without a common purpose in our fractured suburban societies.

I would suggest you have someone on the club's administration to drive the whole show and invite one or two representatives from the following to be a part of a leadership or management group – a "cabinet" so to speak. This group will meet monthly to discuss strategy, issues and upcoming events.

The Manly Eagle Rockers (the longest serving supporter group)
The silvertails (representative of the club's white collar professional demographic – I would suggest ;)).
The White Stripe Supporters (under 25s)
Eagle Angels
Celebrity supporters.

I think it would be very wise for Manly to hold a "veto" authority over that group – used as a last resort if anything inappropriate or damaging to the club's interest is proposed.

Pragmatics – this is an investment:

Obviously what I have proposed will cost. However, I think I'd rather the up front costs of qualified personnel driving something like this venture with the club's interests as a primary concern than the collateral damage that will inevitably come if it is consigned to the warm and fuzzy reaches of volunteers and supporters with a host of un-thought through and unrealised intentions, some contrary to the club's distinctives.

The question to be answered - how to make the venture p ay? The supporter group can't be a charity in the traditional sense of the word, but there are going to be significant costs to the club as I suspect it will require:

One competent logistical person (part time, maybe even full time) to coordinate the groups, be the point of contact and arrange other things (eg book buses for away games), seating at away games and pulling the interstate fan base to interstate games.

Quite a degree of administrative support and/or a contribution towards banners etc

Paid "moles" who will attend games under the club's instruction and covertly take the lead in chanting, banners etc.

I think the only way it will cover itself and/or contribute a significant income stream to the club is if the supporters group proves to be a fairly radical concept:

1. I subscribe to the purple cow marketing school – any marketing must be remarkable or you have wasted your money. And the only bad publicity is your obituary. The supporter group needs to be significantly different to anything currently in the NRL. It must have a defined and preferably controversial point of difference. Most of the suggested names on the MSE website are a "me too" imitation of existing supporter groups at other NRL clubs. Not good enough.

2. It must have the potential for significant exposure and to be the subject of discussions around the office cooler in order to make it attractive to potential sponsors.

3. It will requite tough and possibly unpopular decisions to be made to make it happen. You will simply not get this to happen by trying to cater to everyone. Some people are going to have to accept their preferences are not going to be met (eg seating etc) if this is to get off the ground.


Pulling all of this together, I would propose that to have any chance of success you will need to do something along the following lines:

1. Accept that the concept will run at a loss and will therefore need some kind of subsidy for the first 2-5 years.

2. Embrace a 5-10 year plan so that the shape of the group is informed by a long term approach rather than by short term whims.

3. Embrace the obvious point of difference that Manly has is to be the club that is hated. Therefore the group needs to have a haughty and superior air about it.

4. Sell this concept to Paul Kind at the NRL. It is in the interests of the NRL to have a strong and hated Manly and a supporter group that enhances this perception is a gilt-edged opportunity for the NRL. However it will need NRL support and cooperation to fit with NRL marketing campaigns and it may require additional security at some games.

5. Appoint a competent person with professional qualifications in marketing and project management to the project.

6. Ask the various groups outlined above to appoint one or two representatives to a focus group and/or leadership team to plan the project over the next few months.

7. Talk to sponsors that are likely to benefit from the haughty and superior edge of this group and might wish to fund the venture. Some corporates that may be interested would include ;) etc. (I'll think of more if you really want me to). You will need a company that is not afraid of notoriety.

8. Bite the bullet and call the supporter group the silvertails. It is an obvious name from a marketing perspective, is closely tied to the club's history, and it is very different to anything else in the NRL.

Those are my thoughts – take them or leave them. If you feel they are too bold, ambitious, divisive or unrealistic that's fine. But if that be the case I would suggest that you don't waste your time trying to get this supporter group up and running in any capacity that won't be an embarrassment. I'd reckon there are plenty of other areas to focus on where improvement will make a tangible difference to the club.

Yours sincerely

The Garbage Collector
Senior writer
Apparently this wasn't read as he was busy. But the many of theses ideas will be done.

It was a very comprehensive report Mata....thanks. I did discuss the importance of a professional approach at length. Which they agreed with.
Well he didn't have time to read it when I spoke to him at 4 pm. Not sure if he did before the meeting I did mention that he should if he could find the time.

They're low on admin staff as some are on holidays.

He's busy working on memberships etc.

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