Improving Football Governance project
Between March 2012 and June 2013 SD Europe, along with eight supporters’ organisations, took part in a project funded by the European Commission.
The project, entitled ‘Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership’, was in the area of good governance in sport and run under the Preparatory Action in the Field of Sport (EAC/18/2011).
The project followed the development of a European-wide network of supporters’ organisations trying to be involved in the decision-making process at their clubs, and the support given to them by SD Europe.
The outcomes of the project include the production of a 'toolkit' by each partner for their own country: Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. These documents will provide a key resource for supporters’ organisations and member-owned clubs in the future.
Across Europe, football has for many years struggled with the adverse effects of unsustainable financial models, weak governance, and a lack of democratic accountability. All of this combines to reduce the positive social impact that sport can have.
The project tied in with the European Parliament report that set out the European Dimension in Sport, the White Paper for Sport (2007), and Communication on Sport issued by the European Commission in 2011. All four documents expressed their support for the drive towards good governance in football and supporter involvement in particular.
The member ownership movement, along with the long-standing culture of fan ownership across the continent, has demonstrated that there is a way in which football clubs can be competitive on the pitch, whilst also being a positive presence in their communities, better run and more responsible.
SD Europe has seen a marked increase in demands for its services across Europe in recent years, which clearly indicates that there is real appetite for both improved governance and supporter ownership at all levels of the game.
The main objective of the project was to continue the process of harnessing the desire of supporters' organisations to be more involved in the decision making process and demonstrate that there is a way in which football clubs can be competitive on the pitch, whilst also being a positive presence in their communities, better run and more responsible.
Overall, the project helped build capacity on the national and European levels, establishing the supporters' organisations as strong partners in dialogue with football governing bodies and other stakeholders. In turn, this helped promote good governance through democratic supporters' involvement, in line with EU values.
As well as strengthening the network of supporter ownership in Europe through the identification and sharing of best practice and lessons learnt, eight partners undertook the production of a ‘handbook’ for their country, in its native language. These documents will provide a key resource for supporters’ trusts/groups and mutually owned clubs in the future.
Six partners also held national workshops aimed at their members and training in areas such as: setting up democratic supporter organisations, fundraising, community work, membership and legal frameworks; but also how to build capacity, lobby and raise awareness amongst stakeholders and develop a long-term vision for good governance in football in each country and beyond.