Date: 18th January 2012 at 12:53pm
Written by:

Barnet fans all shared the same sense of disappointment and frustration. Losing faith in their location, management team, and feeling that communication channels to the club were being blocked and ignored, a depressing blanket appeared to be suffocating the supporters and lifeblood of the club.

Determined to change this, a group of supporters decided to make a difference. They had seen the complaints and moaning, but no action to force change. Working behind the scenes, the team toiled on preparing something that was better and more suitable for supporters. Refusing to accept the status quo, they looked at other models elsewhere and built their own. Satisfied with the final product, they published it to Bees` fans. Initially there was some scepticism and criticism, but the group stayed committed to their vision and eventually, following some teething problems, their idea was almost universally considered a resounding success.

For many online Barnet fans, this seems like a fairy-tale ending to the problems and confusion surrounding the Barnet Trust prior to its official launch on Saturday 28th January. Surrounded in secrecy and allegations, it seems the idea of supporters uniting around a single cause is an assumption based in naivety and idealism.

n fact, the story is not fiction but fact.

ast January, under the careful watch and preparation of Moonchild, Mikel, Sam, and FrankShank, the onlybarnet forum launched as an alternative to the official club messageboard. It is little exaggeration to say that the creation of a new online base for supporters is probably the most significant example of Barnet fans generating positive and real change independently since the infamous struggles of the KBA and the inspirational Janet Matthewson 8 years earlier.

The process used by Mikel and co was simple and effective. They canvassed opinion and experience to see that the old board was unsustainable for supporters. Then, with a minimum of fuss, they set about creating a new board that was suitable and simple to understand for anyone. No membership needed to see posts, it was ideal for casual users to keep their finger to the pulse of supporters without going through an arduous registration process. With bizarre initial criticism about severing the club`s online advertising revenues ignored, onlybarnet has remained open, clear, and responsive to the needs of its users – the administrators have over 1000 posts between them, and have also created many sticky topics and pages at the request of individuals.

Whilst onlybarnet`s process and owners deserve significant credit for the efforts and product, there is little doubt that establishing a new vehicle for supporters to approach the club requires a much more detailed and intensive workload. Regardless of their personal incentives for starting a trust, the commitment and paperwork required to found any new organisation means that the founders of the Trust deserve a certain amount of patience and an opportunity to get rectify initial mistakes.

owever, even with generous grace, and acceptance that there are likely to be teething problems, the trust cannot be considered anything other than a shambles in its current state.

Starting under the name of Bees Trust, around 40 supporters huddled in a school assembly hall past Underhill to discuss the importance of finding a supporters` organisation that was flexible enough to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. The opinion propagated by the board and “committee” at the time was that the BFCSA would not be the best way to represent supporters and therefore a trust would be a better vehicle. With the passion from the “committee” evident, the representative from Supporters Direct sincere and informative, it seemed as though the trust would be a new dynamic organisation suited to all fans – the audience duly voted in favour of the

rust.

This enthusiasm continued into the following weeks, stalls were set up and leaflets distributed and the trust was delivering its early promise. Then it all stopped. At the start of the new season there was no news and no more stalls. There was a part of the messageboard designated for trust questions but nothing was answered. No-one knew who or what was going on, did the trust still exist? Were the Supporters Association still running?

Things came to a head in recent weeks as the future of Underhill was cast into doubt by the latest movements of the Barnet council. At a time where Barnet needed its fans to be united and heard, there was nothing. No statement, no response to questions, and the self-appointed chairman of the trust damaged the organisation`s credibility by accidentally issuing comments that did more to damage relations than improve them.

s the questions and knockings grew louder, it became impossible for the trust to retain its reclusive and secretive profile. Eventually they began to answer online questions but there were still no concrete details. Emails had gone missing, the original members were nowhere to be seen, the website had been locked against public viewing, and the trust had even changed its name!

The new BFCST were charging for membership without a bank account and with no public way of explaining what or who they were.

s more details emerged, the picture became hazier. More unanswered questions, and the initial dynamism of the founding members had been replaced by others. Eddie Thomson, the chair of the trust until 2013 issued a statement on Monday in which he stated that he was “able to identify with every supporter.” One of elder Barnet fans, numbering himself “amongst the more mature supporters having been a regular visitor to Underhill since the 1950`s,” there is little doubt that someone of his experience will be of tremendous help to the trust in some capacity.

However, his appointment as chairman does seem slightly at odds with the trust`s declaration that it will be able to meet supporter`s needs in the 21st century if he takes this long to reply to pressing supporters concerns in a simple format.

Ultimately the trust is right to ascertain that the way in which communication has changed necessitates a review of supporters` organisations. Considering the success of trusts elsewhere, it also seems as though the theoretical structure of BFCST is the best way for this to continue in the future.

ore importantly, the trust must prove that it is able to recapture the initial buzz and drive that gave it such a positive start. It has already undergone a series of self-inflicted ordeals that could be enough to end any fledgling company. Change and overhaul is essential.

Onlybarnet showed that Barnet fans can change situations for the better. They kept it simple, listened to others and were open and honest throughout. There`s more paperwork and complexity for Thomson and co, but they have a great example to follow.