Yesterday, we kicked off a weeklong series on the question of supporter involvement in club governance, looking particularly at the role of supporters’ trusts in England. The piece focused on the prospects for fan ownership, but the broader importance and benefit of supporter involvement in the running of football is increasingly being recognised across Europe.
Case in point: yesterday, UEFA (including president Michel Platini and general secretary Gianni Infantino) met with representatives from Supporters Direct and Football Supporters Europe in Nyon, Switzerland. UEFA’s website says the following were amongst the items discussed:
- matchday arrangements at UEFA club and national team competition matches
- the Fan Hosting Seminar held in Barcelona in February (Football, Host Cities and RESPECT)
- the new UEFA policy of hosting the UEFA Champions League final on a Saturday and providing a special allocation of tickets to parents and children
- increasing further the dialogue between UEFA and supporter representatives.
This sounds like simple stuff fans should be in the loop about in discussions by the authorities for everyone’s benefit, but this is something football’s authorities have long struggled to do. Whether because of fear, arrogance or apathy, supporters have typically been regarded as inessential to the process of dialogue and decision-making. This is curious, because without supporters, there would not be professional football. Of course, supporters themselves could only blame themselves for some decades for their own short-sightedness, but great steps have been taken in recent times on European-wide collaboration amongst fan groups.
In an important step recognising the mutual gain to be had from this dialogue, UEFA have officially recognised Football Supporters Europe as the representative European fans’ organisation. FSE’s held its first proper general meeting last year, and describes itself as “an independent, representative and democratically organised grass-roots network of football fans’ in Europe.” FSE says that:
We think that there are enough issues that need to be acted upon in modern football such as ticketing, fan culture, discrimination and policing in football, and football fans should finally speak up, loudly and clearly, and develop a powerful, united, influential and independent representative voice within the structures of the game!
We asked Dave Boyle of Supporters Direct about how the meeting with UEFA went. “UEFA are serious in their engagement with fans and lots of national associations could learn from them!”, he told us. “We don’t agree on everything, but like all good relationships, it isn’t dependent on complete agreement. As Johnny Rotten said, they mean it man!”
From a North American perspective, fans here ought to consider the similar benefits of a nationwide supporters’ network. MLS’ “Supporters Summit” needs an upgrade in its substance, as Don Garber himself seemed to be looking towards in his address at MLS Cup last year. It seems to me there is an open door there from MLS for supporters to create this dialogue in this continent before anything like the problems we have seen in Europe over the decades become a detriment to the game’s growth here, one reason I’m backing the commitment of the nascent Show Racism the Red Card North America to celebrate and support the diversity of the sport.
Though someone else can deal with Uncle Jack Warner….
- Are English standards in the Champions League dropping this year? “Europe Strikes Back”, Oliver Kay says in the Times.
- James Lawton keeps up the seemingly daily coverage of the Red Knights riding to Manchester United’s rescue, saying that “Sooner or later some of the less temperate critics of the Red Knights – who propose, among other things, to move Manchester United from under a mountain of debt – may have to get a bit more specific.”
- You know, it’s pretty damn cool that the Fire’s official blog has a piece by one of their 16-year old Academy prospects who travelled with the first team to Mexico in pre-season this week.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.