Mark Bradley


Mark works all over Europe helping associations, leagues and clubs to understand and improve fan engagement and their match day experience.

The Fan Experience Company was founded in 2005, and in 2019/20 they oversaw the assessment of over 350 games each season in 13 countries. 

Thanks to all our partners, followers, friends and family for supporting us in this most difficult of years. Who knew going to the football would stop being a thing?

It’s been a struggle. I’m sure you know. But we’ve made it through and it’s time to reflect on this most difficult of years and to make some resolutions for what we hope is a much better one. So here goes.

Someone posed a question on social media recently, asking if anything connected people who were rabidly in favour of leaving the EU with no trade deal, who booed when football players ‘took the knee’ and who thought food poverty was the child’s fault for having mothers who either didn’t pay attention in Domestic Science or who had too many children.

They may not be connected, but they are certainly evidence of a purposely divided country.

It may surprise you to learn that, prior to Brexit being a thing, there were actually very few of us for whom membership of the EU was a big issue. But when you learn that this infinitesimally small group included some English Exceptionalist Conservative MPs whose internal party problems could only, apparently, be settled by an EU membership referendum, things begin to become clearer.

How does a political party whose fundamental purpose is to keep things the way they are make sure that ordinary people keep them in power? The answer is by dividing them. 

‘But didn’t the Sun support the Labour Party in the 1997 General Election?’ you may ask. Well, as my colleague Juan Luis pointed out to me the other day, that was probably because the interests controlling the Sun’s editorial decisions happened to feel they might benefit from having Tony Blair in 10 Downing Street.  If, on the other hand, Blair had made it clear he was going to make it difficult for media magnates to hide their taxable income, it’s pretty clear the Sun would have made a different decision.

It’s also clear that one of the areas in which the Conservatives have been successful is in setting limits to what may be included in popular discourse: what we’re allowed to talk about without being labelled subversives.

Among the evidence of this in 2020 was a Government edict forbidding criticism of Capitalism in state schools. Apparently, teachers do have a choice, but this is effectively limited to discussing which type of free market capitalism pupils like best. 

The UK has some enormous challenges, including the fact that we have some of Europe’s highest levels of poverty and social disadvantage. To criticise this and to suggest that our leaders might have got something terribly wrong is to be unpatriotic.

To suggest that that supporting Black Lives Matter is seen as supporting Marxism and being ‘woke’ (which they call you when they’ve lost the argument) is yet another example of the lexicon of those who would divide.

And yet into this disunion walks Marcus Rashford: an apolitical kid with real life experience that tells him that – you know what? – child food poverty is never the kid’s fault.

Watching his documentary on BBC the other night, I was captivated by his ability to bridge divides and to connect with people, regardless of political view. The combination of his lived experience and millions of followers offers real hope that this wellspring of kindness and understanding may be one of the big themes in 2021.

And while it may be a bridge to far for this Sunderland fan to feel motivated by the word ‘United’, I am hopeful that next year will be defined far less by what divides us and far more by what brings us together.

We wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas.



Our White Paper on the topic of safety and fan experience ‘It’s Just Like Watching Pret’ can be found here 

© The Fan Experience Company 2020