Where does your club rank for engaging with their fans?

Norwich City fans
Norwich City are one of eight sides which did three types of face-to-face dialogue: fans forums, one-to-one relationships with supporters trusts' and fan liaison meetings

Every relationship has its ups and downs, but what if there was a better way of measuring how clubs engage with their fans?

One supporter has developed a method to judge how each of English football's professional clubs rank in terms of fan engagement.

The Fan Engagement Index awarded points to clubs who were in England's top four divisions last season, based on how they communicate with supporters, how fans help with the club's governance and the transparency of supporter meetings.

It found that League Two Exeter City topped the table, with Norwich City the only Premier League team ranked in the top 10.

Leicester City are the next best-placed Premier League side in 15th, with Manchester City (37th) the highest-ranked side from last season's final top six.

They are above Liverpool (39th), Arsenal (47th), Manchester United (49th), Tottenham (51st) and Chelsea (73rd).

The lowest-ranked current top-flight team is Sheffield United (82nd) with Swindon Town bottom of the 92 clubs surveyed.

Kevin Rye, who has previously worked with Supporters Direct and now works as a fan engagement consultant, says he compiled the list as a way of bringing better accountability to how clubs engage with fans, clarifying what good engagement actually is and sharing best practice.

"The reason Norwich City do well is because they have hard-wired fan engagement into the way they run the club," Rye told BBC Sport. "That's why clubs perform well, because they weave it into everything they do.

"One of the reasons why clubs fall down is because they don't have a direct relationship with the most active supporter organisation, which in most cases is a supporter's trust. Some of the scoring could also be down to a lack of information available, which tells its own story. That's about transparency.

"I hope this gives some principles and structure to fan engagement and opens up the conversations between fans and clubs, bringing the two together."

Each club was given a score for their dialogue (D) with fans, their governance (G) and making their communication transparent (T).

For those who registered an equal score, more weight was given to the dialogue rating. Rye suggests that three clubs - Port Vale, Gillingham and Swindon Town - did not carry out any regular communication with their fans.

The research, which Rye says is based on publicly-available data, also suggested that 13 clubs did not have a supporters' trust or an independent supporters' group.

In a statement the EFL said: "Clearly defined lines of discussion between clubs and supporters are integral to the long-term health of the game and the EFL strongly supports the principal that clubs should have regular and open dialogue with its fans.

"This approach is embedded in EFL clubs through their customer charters which sets out their commitment to their fanbase, stakeholders and the wider community, including minimum requirements for structured dialogue with fans. This includes holding at least two meetings or forums per season.

"In addition, the role of Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) ensures clubs appoint a dedicated person to act as the point of contact for supporters and it should also be noted that many clubs are going that extra mile to ensure supporters remain at the heart of a club's identity."

Exeter City and Norwich City scored well because they are two of eight clubs to do three types of face-to-face dialogue: fans forums, one-to-one relationships with supporters' trusts and fans' liaison meetings.

Asked if the list showed that Premier League clubs were being more complacent regarding their fans, Rye added: "There's a baked-in complacency in English football. In any circumstance, fans keep walking through the gates.

"Premier League clubs are in some senses bigger organisations compared with other clubs, but look at Leicester City who are 20 points off the top 10. If they can do it, and they recently won the Premier League title and are second now, why can't anyone else do it?

"Portsmouth are another good example. They have managed to go from a fan-owned club to a privately-owned club and their model has barely changed in the way they engage with their fans.

"The reason is about leadership and the decisions at the top ... it was clearly decided that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

"It's the same reason Reading have been engaging with their fans even though their owners have changed. Consistency is important. A culture takes time to build."

Fan Engagement Index Top 20
PositionClubDivisionDGTPoints
1Exeter CityLeague Two556550170
2AFC WimbledonLeague One456560170
3Doncaster RoversLeague One706530165
4Carlisle UnitedLeague Two606535160
5Wycombe WanderersLeague One456550160
6Lincoln CityLeague One605040150
7Norwich CityPremier League604530135
8ReadingChampionship702530125
9PortsmouthLeague One554525125
10Cambridge UnitedLeague Two555020125
11Grimsby TownLeague Two456515125
12RochdaleLeague One204535120
13Newport CountyLeague Two406515120
14Plymouth ArgyleLeague Two552040115
15Leicester CityPremier League452535105
16Crawley TownLeague Two40203090
17Derby CountyChampionship40203090
18Brentford Championship35401590
19FulhamChampionship30451590
20Tranmere RoversLeague One5530085

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