Things are not great at Nottingham Forest, no one can deny that, but as we try to urge our team on to survival in the Championship we also need to look ahead to the legacy we will leave to the generations of fans to come. What follows is not the answer, but I hope it is the continuation of a conversation. Do join in wherever and however you feel you want to. Steve Wright
In all honesty the current situation at Nottingham Forest is draining. Fawaz Al-Hasawi has taken us on such a bewildering and chaotic journey through his four and a half years as owner that the club has lost all sense of direction and fans have lost any faith in him to plot a realistic and sustainable course. The breakdown of a proposed takeover by John Jay Moores and his consortium, whether or not it was ultimately in the long term interests of the club, has therefore left us in a vacuum and that cannot be a good thing.
Al-Hasawi did act quickly once the purchase fell through. He sacked the manager, which surprised no one given his track record on that front and the team’s league position, and more importantly appointed an experienced Chief Financial Officer in Sam Gordon, who will hopefully be able to address the financial records described this week as “rather modest, at best” by Moores. Despite this apparent decisiveness it all feels like a case of deja-vu having seen apparently strong appointments quickly leave the club in the past.
So, on the one hand it feels like we are left simply waiting to see what will happen next as a seemingly reinvigorated owner once again sets about imposing his will on our beleaguered club, but on the other if we ever hope to reclaim it for ourselves and those who will follow us we need to prepare and reimagine a hopeful future. If the latter is to happen we will need to find a way to truly unite behind a common cause, there can be no room either for egos seeking to put themselves into the limelight or for sniping from the sidelines at those who do step forward to help. Sometimes that feels like the greatest hurdle we have to collectively overcome.
We do have some existing mechanisms to try to unite behind. Forza Garibaldi continues to be a beacon of positive support for the team and their efforts to rally fans behind the players and staff will be crucial as we face up to the reality of a relegation battle. We also have a Supporters’ Trust which is now open to members and stands at the beginning of its journey to be a safeguard for the club’s future, providing crucial support, challenge, checks and balances, whoever the owner is for as long as we have a club to support. Or at least it could be.
Ultimately all any of us want to do is support our team. None of us started following Forest to get embroiled in finances and governance, but the game has changed to such an extent with individual wealthy owners taking control of community clubs for their own ends (whether financial or otherwise) that we now need people who are able to bring those skills and experiences to the table to step up and do so. When they do step up we should welcome them and try to support them as they seek not to represent us so much as to assure us that our club is being well managed by safe hands.
This is what governance is all about, providing assurance to the wider community that an organisation we are all tied to is doing the right things by us all. The club needs a publicly available plan that lays out its vision and its values and explains what its aims are for the future and how it intends to go about achieving those aims. The fans, along with other key partners like local councils, need to have a say in the construction of that plan and also access to the club in a way that allows them to be assured that the plan is being actioned in line with our shared vision and values.
This is why I do not just want to see an executive and football structure put in place, with the positions that we all agree on of CEO, CFO, Director of Football, Head Coach, Head of Recruitment, Academy Manager etc., but also a non-executive board either directly attached to the club, or if that is not legally possible via the Supporters’ Trust which would in an ideal world give it a broader reach, to provide that assurance and governance. This board would not be adversarial, it would be there to work alongside the club’s executives to set and achieve the vision, but it would have an independent eye to keep the club true to itself, not a temporary owner.
All of this remains in my mind true and relevant whoever owns the club today, this summer or into the future. I hope we can work collectively to put something in place that can give the fanbase the assurance it needs to simply head to the City Ground stands with a sense of connection and pride in their club to do what we all wanted to do right from the start – support our team.