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Bolton Wanderers fan group suggestions channel MLS supporter culture

Otto Greule Jr

It seems that the Trotters are trying to learn from past mistakes and are opening up to the fans, hoping to better cater to their needs. In a move to improve communication between the club and supporters, a meeting was held with representatives from both parties to toss around some ideas. The meeting was the latest in a series of interactions with the fans that had previously included surveys, fan forums, and face-to-face conversations.

When Bolton Wanderers first agreed to put QuickQuid on their shirts as the club's primary sponsor, the general public was disgusted with the decision because it by and large did not take the fans' wishes into account. The backlash was sustained, reaching far and wide as fans and press alike spoke against the decision in the press and on the streets. Then, the Trotters pulled a U-turn, cancelling the deal, and naming a local firm as their new shirt sponsors. When all was said and done, the move gathered overwhelmingly positive reactions from the fans.

In the meeting, it was clear that the supporters thought there were ways in which the matchday experience can be enhanced for those at the ground. Some of these ideas included better communication while others, knowingly or not, mirrored the way that Major League Soccer fans handle their matchday experiences in conjunction with the teams that they support.

If you've ever watched an MLS match, particularly those hosted by the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, or Philadelphia Union, among others, you will have seen the fervent support that sections of the fanbase can deliver. Be it the Emerald City Supporters in Seattle, the Timbers Army in Portland, or the Sons of Ben, the supporters are loud, proud, and more than happy to show you that by standing for 90 minutes and singing their hearts out.

Four of the suggestions in particular listed in the meeting's minutes (PDF) look to echo that atmosphere:

A safe standing area - [Richard Gough, Head of Public Sales] agreed that this could be discussed in more detail at a future meeting.

MLS supporters groups,such as the above mentioned ECS, TA, and SoBs, are known for standing for the entire match with nary an incident. There's something about fans standing throughout the match that really adds to atmosphere. It was something that was experienced at Wembley Stadium for the Champion's League Final just a month ago. I was there, with Bayern Munich supporters above, below, to the left, and to the right of me. I had never felt a stadium literally shake before that.

Publish BWFC football songs on the website and maybe on the scoreboard for all to sing along with.

Football chants are, in a word, naughty. The language is often unkind and not something that you want young children, of which there are plenty at matches, to see. Putting it up on the website or screen probably isn't the best course of action but Major League Soccer supporters have found a course of action for those that don't yet know songs. Printing out lyrics on song sheets and handing them out to supporters has worked wonders and allows people to get into the action, especially if they have not memorized the songs.

A supporter in the stand with a megaphone to encourage fans to sing and chant as per some European clubs

This is what is often known as the "capo." Many supporters' groups in MLS have sections led by one, often standing with their backs to the match and using a megaphone or other PA system to make their voice heard to the the thousands in front of them. These are the people generally responsible for starting the chants and keeping the rhythm, and in turn, the atmosphere, going.

An area designated to regular BWFC away supporters to try and recreate the away match atmosphere.

Agree with it or not, some supporters feel those that regularly make away trips belong to a higher order of supporter-hood than others. As such, they feel as though they deserve a special section to show how hardcore (or something) they are. While it does sound pretty elitist, it does bring to mind the idea of Major League Soccer's supporters' group sections in that the specific section or area would house a group of fans that (again, agree or not) are more vocal than others.

Mind, no one is saying that these Bolton supporters are intentionally looking to copy Major League Soccer, more that their requests echo that of the American (and Canadian) supporter's groups.