The penultimate exchange visit of SD Europe’s Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football project took place recently in Gelsenkirchen as Cork City FC visited FC Schalke 04.
The project has brought together six member-run clubs and five national supporters organisations from around Europe to learn and share best practice in the areas of good governance, sustainable finance and member & volunteer engagement. The work is co-financed by the Erasmus+ programme and Uefa.
Representatives of FC Schalke 04 travelled to Cork earlier in the year, along with fellow partners Malmö FF, and the weekend of November 20th to 22nd saw the Rebel Army embark of the return exchange visit. This element of the project has proved particularly worthwhile with clubs and supporters’ organisations having an opportunity learn and see best practice in action on the ground.
Arriving in Gelsenkirchen on the Friday, Cork City vice-chairman Mike Derham and board member John Kennedy travelled to the Veltins Arena for FC Schalke’s Bundesliga game against Mainz 05. The project’s objectives and activities were outlined on the Arena’s central ‘cube’ TV at half time during the fixture.
The delegation, which included SD Europe’s Niamh O’Mahony, visited the club shop and offices before taking a tour of the stadium as preparations for match night got underway.
Taking in the hospitality area, membership zone, away sector and Ultras match night shop, much of the discussion focused on how Schalke 04 work to include their supporters and members at every opportunity. Signing up to become a member has been made as easy as possible for fans attending games on match night (the club has 150,000 members), and a branded cabin is a key focus of activities to demonstrate how being a member of the club has several benefits and should be a consideration for all Schalke fans.
The following morning Mike and John took part in a session with Schalke 04’s Walking Football squad. A newer development at the club, the squad goes from strength to strength and even competed in an international tournament – emerging as victors – in recent weeks.
A meeting with Sebastian Buntkirchen, managing director of Schalke’s CSR foundation, followed in the afternoon before the delegation saw FC Schalke’s basketball team take on neighbours Essen in a hard-fought local derby fixture that evening. The side in blue coming out on top on this occasion too, having beaten Mainz 2-0 the previous night!
The exchange ended back at the stadium and at the club’s museum on Sunday morning, taking in exhibitions on fan culture and choreography and hearing from supporters about what their club (and its 100% member-owned model) means to them at a time when the ownership and model of German football clubs is a hot topic of discussion.
“The visit to Schalke 04 was of great benefit to us at FORAS and CCFC. To see what goes on behind the scenes at a large club like Schalke 04 was extremely helpful,”said vice-chairman Mike Derham. “Their match day planning, SLO operations, merchandising opportunities, fan engagement, and community integration are very successful; seeing all this first hand showed us that what we ourselves are doing at the moment can be scaled as we grow. We learned some ideas around CSR from them that are working well and will be implementing some of these in the coming months.”
A fantastic trip all in all!
For more information on the Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football project, see Our Project. If you feel our experience and expertise in the areas of Fan ownership, supporter liaison, or member club development may be helpful, be sure to get in touch!