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Dec 21, 2017

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SDE Network: Supporters in Campo, a grassroots hope for Italian fans

Italian supporters organisation Supporters in Campo is a leading example of cooperation and participation for all supporters. Over the past decades, there have been many attempts to unite supporters groups in Italy. Though successful in the short term, the outcomes of these attempts appear to be fading and short-lasting.

SD Europe celebrates 10 Years in 2017. To mark this milestone, we are recalling some of the stories, successes and challenges from across the SDE network. Read about FORAS and Cork City FC (Ireland), the movement in Poland with AKS Zly and Socios Gornik and YB SK Beveren (Belgium), with more articles in the coming weeks.

That was the main challenge and scepticism of everyone involved in the initial discussions about a movement in Italy that would bring together supporters who are interested in the topics of active participation, governance, financial and social sustainability. A challenge that needed nearly three years of countless meetings with different people in different parts of the country and intensive and long discussions to overcome.

Eventually, in 2013, as SD Europe’s EC-funded “Improving football governance through the involvement and ownership of supporters” project came to an end, it highlighted the efforts in Italy as best practice in Europe. In the process, it gave the opportunity to the individuals, supporters groups and member-run clubs that had been an active part of the discussions to cooperate and collaborate in order to identify the right structure for a sustainable movement. Through that project, all parties involved managed to differentiate Supporters in Campo from any other Italian movement by understanding that cultural change is a slow process, a marathon rather than a sprint. It is a process that requires devotion, persistence and patience.

Up to its ‘official’ birth in April 2013 and ever since, Supporters in Campo has not resembled any other supporters’ organisation in Italy. The association is a membership-based entity with members organised in a democratic and inclusive way under the principle of consensus. Members are not-for-profit organisations, operating with a focus on the community and are owned and/or managed by supporters as responsible, transparent and open entities.

Supporters in Campo is the network that disseminates sustainable models of ownership and management of clubs and sports institutions in Italy. It brings together supporters groups and clubs that promote the active and inclusive involvement of supporters in the decision-making processes and ownership of football clubs. Its members also collectively enhance the positive contribution supporters have in sport and specifically football.

In the initial discussions in Italy, in 2009, only a handful of people were present;. Through the history of Supporters in Campo, some 30 organisations have been affiliated or worked with the network. The activities and scope of each group in Supporters in Campo are focused on good governance, ranging from either full or majority or minority ownership of football clubs and other forms of involvement are being pursued which include board representation, veto rights (stadium, colours, crest), youth team management, and assumption of SLO duties.

Despite the occasional setback, in 2017 Supporters in Campo is still growing in numbers every year. Today, Supporters in Campo has 20 groups and clubs from all levels of Italian football in its ranks, collectively represents 15,000 people and is recognised as an official stakeholder in Italian sport.

Diego Riva, chairman of Supporters in Campo said: “Setting up an Italian movement was not easy. To be a credible and representative organisation you need to be democratic and involve people and members in the process. Italian fans are used to speaking about each other but not to each other. This is what we have managed to overcome with Supporters in Campo. Our members exist thanks to each other and operate side by side on a daily basis, as one organisation.

Antonia and our partners in the SD Europe network have been of great help in the beginning and the development of Supporters in Campo. We would not have done it without them. As a young network we are still gathering experiences at Italian and European level, hoping that some of our work inspires other organisations in Europe too.

Keeping a successful tradition established over the past seven years, Supporters in Campo is an organisation that produces and suggests constructive and inclusive policies for Italian football. It also searches for alternatives to promote supporter involvement in decision-making processes, such as the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) work around which they have worked together with the FIGC and the Leagues.

Supporters in Campo has had a constant and firm presence in Italian football since 2009. Its members bear solid arguments and the organisation has a clear goal: to convey, in a single voice, the most relevant issues to its membership, protecting and incentivising the activities of the members of the national collective. The combination of these facts have made Supporters in Campo the first supporters organisation to be recognised as an official stakeholder by the sport governing bodies, the FIGC, as well as the Leagues.

Pippo Russo (left), board member of Supporters in Campo, said: “The past eight years have been a great journey for us. Since 2013 we are officially members of SD Europe and we are proud to be part of this European fan network that has been present for the past ten years. The board of Supporters in Campo continuously tries to transfer as many resources and knowledge as possible to our members; and we will keep on building the cohesion between our members and reach out to new ones.

Fans are the heart of the game and without them football loses its soul. Supporters in Campo represent responsible and credible supporters, who fight for democracy, transparency and a more sustainable game, socially and financially. The supporters and clubs in our network expect the required support of the Italian football authorities and politicians at European, national and local level. Improving this relationship will be our focus in the next years“.

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