How Falkirk's board managed to do the unthinkable and disrespect their supporters to the extent it annoyed rival fans

Anyone still wishing to understand the growing enthusiasm of fan ownership in Scottish football should look no further than the Falkirk TV channel on YouTube and the video uploaded Thursday, entitled: ‘Falkirk FC Board & Management Q&A.’
Falkirk angered supporters at a Q&A between fans and the club's hierarchy. Picture: SNSFalkirk angered supporters at a Q&A between fans and the club's hierarchy. Picture: SNS
Falkirk angered supporters at a Q&A between fans and the club's hierarchy. Picture: SNS

Over a course of 104 minutes, the club’s hierarchy manage to appear condescending, arrogantly flippant, evasive, embarrassing and utterly clueless when faced with the people they are there to serve.

For supporters of other clubs, especially their greatest rivals, the question and answer session provided several moments of hilarity and supplied further ammunition to those who are not avid followers of the Bairns but would instead like to see them continuing to flounder in the third tier of the SPFL.

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However, it also provoked an emotion rarely found within the schadenfreude: annoyance.

If you’ve been a football supporter for any length of time, chances are you’ve suffered through an incompetent board at some point. It’s an existence akin to banging your head off a brick wall. Those tasked with the job of safe-keeping the club are clearly not up to the task, but there’s little if anything you can do about it other than continue to voice your displeasure and hope they take the hint and sell up. It’s a feeling we’re all familiar with, so we’re generally not too sympathetic when it happens to others – unless in extreme cases. Well, the Falkirk board and management somehow managed to take it to such a degree where supporters who would normally be gleeful about the Stirlingshire side struggling found themselves vexed by what they were watching.

The worst thing you can do is pin any sort of blame for poor performances and underachievement on supporters. Nothing good can ever come from it. We all know this. These people are the lifeblood of the club. These are the people who sustain it. And that is particularly pertinent for Falkirk, who are in their third season of League One football and still getting average attendance figures that a few Premiership teams would be satisfied with.

So what possessed director Gordon Colborn – within the first ten minutes, we should add – to accuse the fans of being too negative towards the team to the point where players were scared to express themselves is anybody’s guess. ‘How shall we get this Q&A off on the right foot? I know, let’s alienate the majority of the room. That should do the trick!’ The fans were regularly asked for patience. Their team has been dreadful for FIVE YEARS! Surely that is more than enough?

Colborn was far from the only one who didn’t cover himself in glory. Chairman Gary Deans further infuriated those in attendance when he responded to a well-researched, well-articulated argument from a fan into the failings of his tenure with: “That’s a statement, not a question.” While being rudely pedantic, it was also laughably inaccurate as the supporter did indeed finish his monologue by asking: “At what stage do we get to where there is serious change happening?”

Gary Holt appeared completely at odds with the tone of the meeting and, by extension, the seriousness of the position the club finds themselves in. They’re by far and away the biggest side in the division, yet they currently sit in fifth, outside of the play-off positions and once again seem to have assembled a squad which isn’t good enough to get them back into the second tier. It’s a dire situation, so the sporting director thought it best to continually crack jokes like he was at the top table of a best pal’s wedding.

Finally, manager Paul Sheerin. Though he didn’t provoke supporters in the manner the others did, he hardly came out of it looking like the ideal candidate to take Falkirk out of this tailspin and lead them on the path to glory. What was particularly troubling was his admittance that a lot of the players at his disposal didn’t fit into his style of play, despite insistence from both himself and Holt that he was heavily involved in the recruiting process.

Even if his contribution is just an input and not the final decision, why hire a manager to implement a style of play and sign players which don’t fit that? Or why sign players which don’t fit your new manager’s style?

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It’s all part of the disfunction at Falkirk which seemingly existed since Peter Houston was jettisoned for a startlingly dismal start to the 2017-18 Championship campaign. From there it’s been Paul Hartley, disbanding the club’s academy and signing a lot of dross from the English lower leagues; Ray McKinnon’s bafflingly negative tactics taking the team down; the out-of-depth duo of David McCracken and Lee Miller; the incredible collapse at the conclusion of last season; shuffling around at boardroom level to little effect, and now the latest worrying signs that things will not be changing any time soon.

The board made some pertinent points about getting the structure right after failings of the past, but it was lost in the circus. Somebody fans might have wanted to hear more from was chief executive Jamie Swinney, who only spoke towards the end of proceedings. The former Stenhousemuir CEO has only been in the door since July, so perhaps didn’t want to speak too much considering he hasn’t been around that long. Or perhaps he wanted to disassociate himself with the rest of the group he shared a table with. Nobody would blame him.

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