On-the-field issues might be the direct cause of the problems they’ve faced climbing back up the Scottish football ladder since going down to League 1 in 2019, but many supporters would point to the club’s boardroom as a barrier to success for Falkirk every bit as insurmountable as what’s been happening – or failing to happen – on the football pitch.
A now-infamous video of a supporters’ question-and-answer session with former directors of the club at the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel in Polmont last October typified a leadership clearly at odds with their fan-base, resulting in their departures soon afterwards and the emergence of the Falkirk Supporters’ Society as a voice for those previously given little say in how the Bairns are run.
The society now have a seat at the table for discussions on the club’s future courtesy of a shareholding financed by the monthly membership fees paid by fans.
Stuart Adam, a long-time fan of the club and co-founder of the society, believes strongly in the initiative, believing it to be the best way forward for the Bairns.
“The principle of fans being more involved is a no-brainer,” he said.
“Who cares more about the club than the fans?
“That’s not to say that the previous directors were not Falkirk fans. Most of them were, but that’s not fan ownership in the purest sense.
“We now have fans on the board who are directly elected and accountable to other fans via the society and Patrons’ Group elections.”
The society are now represented by two directors on the Falkirk board, and Adam believes that is a massive step towards their goal of safeguarding the club from future regimes that might prove to be as out of touch with supporters as previous ones.
“The society want to protect the club from vultures, who are still circling and maneuvering in the background. and also from harmful decisions such as closing the academy. No fans’ director would have ever signed off on that, ”he said.
“We also want to promote the fans’ voice within the club because that has been lacking for too long.
“Our directors will do their best and they have the experience and dedication to do it, but they are only human. I hope that the fans embrace them or it won’t work.
“But if the likes of Morton, Dunfermline and Motherwell can make a success of fan involvement, there’s no reason Falkirk can’t.
“Our directors have already been out in the community listening to fans, understanding their frustrations and learning from their ideas.
“The thing that matters most to the fans is getting it right on the park. We can talk about shares and management structures and all sorts of things, but fans need to see success on the pitch.
“We’re about to go into a fourth season in the third tier, and I think the expectation of promotion is starting to wear off as we are starting to see clubs that have traditionally been below us overtake us, Queen’s Park and Cove Rangers being examples.
“It’s depressing, but it’s a cold, hard lesson that we can’t take anything for granted.
“Can more fan involvement make things better on the park? I hope I know. You can never guarantee it.
“What can we do about it? We can bring more investment, which is what we are doing. Members are contributing around £ 5,000 a month already, just six months after we’ve launched, and the Patrons’ Group have already invested over £ 200,000, which can hopefully give us an advantage in the transfer market, amongst other things.
“We can also make sure the board understand what fans think, what makes them tick, and we can help bring Falkirk fans’ talents and contacts into the club.
“Falkirk fans do great things for the club. Look at what the Crunchie Initiative has done to dedicated the South Stand to Kevin McAllister, all funds raised by volunteers.
“Equity Bairns has brought in £ 10,000 in shirt sponsorship from hundreds of fans over the past five years and raised a similar amount for charity, BairnForLife has helped managers sign players in the January transfer window, the Junior Bairns have introduced thousands of youngsters to a lifelong obsession and the heritage trust protects our history and brings former players together. All of that is voluntary. “
Adam is cautiously optimistic about the prospects offered by fan involvement but also worries he might never see the return to the good times that he craves.
“I’m always excited for the future,” he said. “Yes, I am absolutely optimistic and enthusiastic, but I am also scared. I am getting older. I’m 51. I’m scared that we won’t see the good times again, that we won’t be screaming at Parkhead because Jimmy Gilmour has scored or we won’t see cup finals again. It gets to me a little bit even thinking about it.
“We have what is the seventh or eighth biggest support in the country. We regularly have bigger supports than, say, a Motherwell-against-St Mirren game in the Premiership, so you have to be optimistic.
“Everything is in place for us to be successful. We just need that last bit in the park to fall into place.
“Fan involvement, I’d argue, is a massive step forward.”