WELCOME to a new weekly feature in conjunction with the Oxford United fan groups OxVox and Oxford United Supporters’ Panel, as we hear from them throughout the summer on all manner of U’s matters.

We’ll be getting views from the two groups on a range of subjects, including topics on and off the pitch.

Those may include the summer transfer window, hopes and ambitions for the 2023/24 season, favourite moments following United, and the ongoing stadium project.

To kick things off, we caught up with OxVox chair Paul Peros to find out more about the group’s origins and the positive impact that football can have on the community.

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For those that don’t know, OxVox is an independent supporters’ trust. It was set up in 2002 but its origins lay in groups like FOUL (Fighting for Oxford United’s Life).

At turbulent times in the club’s 130-year history, supporters have banded together to protect not only the club they love, but also the fellow supporters that they share a bond with.

We guard our independence fiercely.

Owners and players will come and go, but the fans are the constant and must have a strong voice.

To support the club of course, but to question and challenge them when we feel there are issues.

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Our guiding principles are to safeguard the club, represent the wishes of our nearly 1,500 members, and to give them a voice.

What those not connected to a football club may not understand is that through our shared goals, joys, miseries and experiences, we connect to other supporters and form a fabulously diverse community.

This is why when people make lazy stereotypes about football supporters it is so frustrating.

During the discussions over the proposed new stadium, we have sadly faced that from some that would rather see the club go out of business than risk change to their immediate surroundings.

What they fail to understand is that football has evolved and embraced change.

We have driven out the vocal minority of troublemakers until figures for arrests now sit lower than that of any town or village centre on a weekend.

We have made huge strides to tackle racism, homophobia and sexism in the game, and now lead amazing initiatives that have furthered understanding and tolerance among all supporters, something from which the wider community could learn.

The sport is also working hard to improve its environmental footprint and to highlight to supporters what can be done to affect positive change.

As the wider game and the club tackle these important issues, we also see at a local level the effect this club has on the community.

We’ve been involved in projects to keep people connected right through Covid and beyond, and that sense of community, from the young children who idolise their heroes and are inspired to keep fit and strive for more, to our generation of older supporters who have witnessed the miraculous rise from non-league all the way to the top division and League Cup glory, and back.

I have been fortunate enough to spend time with fans of all ages and conversation is always easy.

Football fans disagree on many aspects of our team, our signings and our set-up but if one is ever in need, the community will always react in the most amazing way.

What people outside the game don’t realise is that this extends beyond our club to the wider footballing world.

When the club talk about a community stadium near Kidlington, they hope not only to enhance our community, but that of Kidlington, the surrounding areas and the whole of the county.

What is important now is that we continue to work hard and engage with the residents of Kidlington.

They have genuine concerns that can and will be addressed.

We look forward to working hard with the club to achieve that and to build something that the county can be truly proud of.

To find out more about OxVox and to join us, visit our website at: oxvox.org.uk