He could never wear the navy blue shirt on the park, so the next best thing for Alistair Brookes was wearing the club tie in the boardroom.
His year as the fans’ representative to the board of directors at Falkirk FC is up and he willhand over the mantle to Mike Dickins for the new season.
Through membership of the Falkirk Supporters’ Society, any fan like Alistair can step among the blazers. “As a fan of more than 40 years, nothing made me prouder,” he told The Falkirk Herald.
He’ll return to his seat in row H of the west stand for season 2013/14, with his eyes opened to what really goes on in running the club.
“We roll up on a Saturday and everything happens. Being the fans rep forces you to stop being a fan and to think more like a businessman. I’m now more appreciative of the work behind the scenes.
“Sometimes the board get stick but to be fair to them I don’t think people realise these are the guys who, with their time and their finances keep the club afloat, and give us a team to support on a Saturday. The work and commitment, Martin Ritchie in particular, put in to the club is quite incredible.
“It wasn’t a shock, but maybe we underestimate a bit. The club doesn’t just exist and happen, there are people who are key to making it happen – David White, Totts, the girls in the office, it’s all important. It’s fair to say there’s a lot of things still not right, but that’s not to say the board aren’t aware and know what’s needed to make it right.”
Brookes’ role was to deliver a fans’ perspective directly to the board and “fair play to every director there ... I’ve never felt my opinion hasn’t been heard.
“When I’ve raised issues I have been listened to, some fans might think that’s not the case, but I can say that it has been absolutely from day one.”
One of the Falkirk supporter society’s pushes was on pricing and they recently welcomed the club’s new season ticket deals, but cautioned about the walk-up cost for South Stand supporters.
“We were very keen to give fans good value for money. The club should be applauded for the under-12 policy.
“I know there’s recently been a desire to call them customers, but I’d never see Falkirk fans like that. The reality is we need to give them a product on the park they want to come and see.
“We need to treat Falkirk on a like-for-like basis – especially during the winter. To sit in a concrete stadium on wasteground between Falkirk and Grangemouth, you’ve got to look at that and think is that what people are happy to do when you take into account other options like cinema or bowling? We should not forget the core of the business is what’s on the park. That’s what 90 per cent of fans care about. They want a good football team on a Saturday. That’s our aim, get Falkirk competitive again and back in the SPL.”
Brookes has tried to influence that too, and was on the interview panel which appointed Gary Holt. That privileged position could never have been attained, or envisaged without the club’s recognition of the FSS, and the boardroom role.
“There’s a tickbox on season ticket applications online and in the shop. It’s free and a way of getting everyone – Senior bairns, Junior bairns, bus conveners – around the table to get collective opinion, then we can live our name to the full.
“We’re very keen to create an umbrella organisation – the aim is to say we represent all Falkirk fans. From there, they can put themselves forward to become fans’ rep and that gives everyone the opportunity to say ‘if you dont think things are right, get into the boardroom and try to influence change’.
“Going forward, the FSS needs a two-year stint. A lot depends on trust and that, naturally, takes time. My latter six months were better than the first.
“You learn, and get comfortable in the boardroom. I’ve done it to the best of my ability.”