So much has changed in football since my Dad took me to Roker Park in 1969, as a punishment for being naughty, and even since I set up The Fan Experience Company in 2005. But one thing is as true today as it was back then, and that is that the two most important groups connected to any club are the people who work there and its supporters.

16 years of working in football has made it clear to me that discounting is no effective alternative path to sustainability. Price mustn’t be a barrier to fans, but it’s engagement that has a stronger influence on whether or not they return. Sure, winning will get them coming back too, but you can’t control that and, as many will tell you, those fans that come along in the soft glow of glory are the first to desert when failure comes knocking.

I know, without any doubt whatsoever, that a club that builds its strategy and culture around four key pillars: meaning & identity, authentic supporter dialogue, consistently excellent fan experiences & a valued and motivated workforce will thrive – regardless of how well it performs on the pitch.

The Fan Experience Company helps associations, leagues and clubs to understand this and their fans’ experience and to use the knowledge to sustainably grow – not just attendances (although that’s never a bad thing) – but also their reputation for doing the right thing and the power of their own identity too.

Mark Bradley