Transparency in football – is there a line?

While the general idea of transparency should be promoted, you wonder if there is a line with transparency, and also, how much information is too much information?

Transparency (n): a situation in which business and financial activities are done in an open way without secrets, so that people can trust that they are fair and honest.


In the age of social media, Disney+ documentaries, and podcasts, football has become more open than ever. The days of a tell-all memoir hitting the shelves years after a player had retired or a manager had stepped down have long gone, with access to our club’s inner workings more available than ever.


While the general idea of transparency should be promoted, some openness from clubs makes you wonder if there is a line with transparency, and also, how much information is too much information?


Online Personas 


When discussing club transparency, Accrington Stanley makes for an excellent case study. The club’s owner, Andy Holt, is often held up as a leading example of a chairman being transparent with the fans. However, some of his recent activity has also caused a rift with the fanbase.


Many were surprised by the sacking of club legend John Coleman, but in retrospect, the signs had been there for some time. Coleman and his assistant, Jimmy Bell, had both been vocal about their issues with the club in recent months, and Holt had also been very clear about issues facing them off the pitch.


Holt addressed their dismissal from their position in a club statement, which, unsurprisingly, received a mixed reaction. Some people, whether they agreed with the decision or not, praised Holt for his honesty about the situation. In contrast, others argued that the statement aired dirty laundry, alienating some fans and creating a needless media storm around the club.


Drawing a Line


Coming down clean on one side of these debates is extremely difficult. How often have we seen a manager dismissed out of the blue, leaving fans feeling disconnected and frustrated at owners? Rumor and hearsay can also craft a narrative that the club doesn’t want, which can sometimes be hugely detrimental to a chairman’s reputation.


Holt has recently stepped away from X, and the whole thing feels like a cautionary tale. Fans from all over the country have praised him for his honesty when it comes to transfers, budget, and other issues at the club, but a line was crossed with the recent move.


Of course, Holt is not the only owner who has taken this approach. Darragh McAnthony, the Peterborough United Chairman, has been incredibly open over the years, even running a podcast called The Hard Truth, where he talks all things Posh and football ownership.


The Posh Chairman is a divisive figure. Like Holt, he has been applauded for his honesty but has also met criticism from some elements of his fanbase for being a little too open about issues and causing controversy at times.


A Professional Approach


Fan involvement is essential to the running of a good club, especially as you look down the leagues. Look at clubs like Newport County and Wimbledon, or even further down the tables to the likes of Aldershot and Telford United. Poor management behind the scenes has left clubs in ruins. Who was there to pick up the pieces? The fans.


All fans deserve effective communication, but there is a way to do this professionally. For example, during a takeover process, fans need regular updates on how far along the club is in proceedings.

Regular updates keep fans happy and let them know things are going in the right direction. Likewise, statements from the chairman throughout the season can also be incredibly effective.


Social media is also a very useful tool for transparency. Clubs can use it to gauge fan responses to issues and, if necessary, reach out to them to discuss matters. Fan involvement is never going to be a bad thing; after all, these are the people who care about the club the most.


A Right Way and a Wrong Way?


Transparency is incredibly important in the modern age. Fans have a better understanding of what is happening at their clubs and more access than ever. It is clear, though, that there is a line to be drawn somewhere.

Fans do not necessarily need to be privy to a player’s, manager’s, or chairman’s innermost thoughts about club issues. Sometimes, it is best to keep these things to themselves at 10 pm on a Saturday evening. If someone is unhappy or has personal issues, they should be kept in the dressing and board rooms.


Professionalism and a healthy distance are the keys to a strong relationship. Many clubs have found an effective way of keeping fans involved without sharing their personal dramas all over the internet.

But what do you think? What are the limits to club transparency? Should there be any limits at all? Get involved at Directors’ Box at let us know.