May 22, 2019
Once Survivors Now Thrivers: Bohemians Praha
The Bohemians Supporters Trust (DFB), a group from Praha, Czechia, have recently joined SD Europe’s growing network of supporters across Europe. With different experiences and inspiring stories, the DFB continue to develop fan-ownership and enlarge SD Europe’s activities to Europe and beyond.
The Bohemians Supporters Trust (DFB), are a supporters group of Bohemians Praha 1905. Founded in March 2005, Bohemians Supporters Trust would see a future of years of legal disputes over their club’s traditional identity, and a fight over the proposed relocation away from the traditional Ďolíček stadium.
In 2005, a fan-organised fundraising campaign funded the rebirth of their bankrupt club.
A powerful and inspiring story of tenacity and determination, a lesson of strength and passion. In this SD Europe Exclusive, we interviewed Martin Kurka, an important voice in the Bohemians Praha story, to learn about the spirit that has moved their mobilisation, their organisation, and their activities over the last decade.
When did your adventure start?
“It all started in March 2005. Immediately after the club’s bankruptcy and loss of professional status. The DFB representatives faced numerous legal disputes over the club identity and proposed relocation away from the traditional Ďolíček stadium.”
What is the supporters role at the club? Are supporters represented in the ownership, or on the board?
“The Bohemians Supporters Trust owns 10.24% of shares in Bohemians Praha 1905. Within the current structure, the DFB sits as a group that influences through a number of areas: The DFB representatives at the annual general meeting, the board of directors and supervisory board. They also present the organisation’s opinions and suggestions and help put it into practice via daily informal contact with the club’s management. The DFB also has the right to nominate the club’s Supporter Liaison Officer.”
How did you carry out the campaign to save your historic club?
“The DFB proposed to all active fans and players of Bohemians membership in the supporter group. Each DFB member deposited 1000 CZK (40 EUR). The club has a large base of loyal fans, so the DFB crowdfunding was a huge success. In 2005, over 1600 fans enrolled, helping save the club and clear most debts.”
What was it like to have the legal battle with Střížkov? What does it mean for you that you won?
“Legal disputes are always unpleasant, expensive, long, and uncertain. But we always believed it would work out well. We had the supporters on our side and the Czech Football Federation from the beginning recognized us as the successor to the name and identity. Saving our club and its heritage is a great feeling. Bohemians is more than football. Dolicek is a place to meet our friends, neighbors, family members, colleagues. Bohemians and Dolicek bring together different groups of people from many diverse backgrounds.”
What is the reason or the goal that is pushing the club?
“Fans! Bohemians is a family club with a long history and special atmosphere. It is a traditional Czech club and we all have been living with it since childhood. The Dolicek Stadium and the club are part of the local community and its history. We have a duty to take good care of it and save it for future generations.”
What are some achievements of the club thus far?
“A huge achievement is that we play steadily in the first division in our home stadium. The club is economically secure and manage a balanced budget. As from the supporter perspective, we are one of the best teams in the league.”
What is the vision and future for Bohemians?
“We want to stay a well-functioning club, we want Bohemians to be a modern club with significant cooperation with our fans. We plan to reconstruct the Dolicek stadium in cooperation with the city of Prague, while keeping the character and soul of the area. Lastly, we want to build a youth academy and help raise the next great generation of football players, like our own Antonin Panenka.”
What fascinated you about the SD Europe network? What are your expectations from the network and what contribution do you think you can give?
“It’s great that such an organisation helping fans across Europe exists. It is certainly great to meet, exchange experiences, feel support, and actually see that fighting for your club makes sense, even if it seems impossible at the beginning. It gives hope.”
Does your league promote the development of the Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) role?
“Yes, and it’s even an obligation to have a SLO. On the other hand, not all clubs have a really working and active SLO. They often see this as an unnecessary additional expense, due to the lack of supporters in certain clubs. But the situation is improving and the football federation is trying to promote the development of the SLO. The Supporter Liaison Officer work is slowly gaining traction across all clubs. We want Bohemians to be a role model club.”
What benefits does the SLO role bring you? How would you improve it?
“This position ensures that good communication between the club and the fans will continue. SLO’s should help avoid unnecessary misunderstandings both ways. A well-functioning SLO will improve service and the conditions for the fans in and around stadiums, this will increase their numbers and improve the overall reputation of football as a whole. All parties benefit from the SLO’s position. The Club, fans, community, the police and more.”
What is the message you want to send to fans across Europe?
“Be active! Get involved! Regardless of background we are all important to our club and even the smallest participation helps.”
What’s your message to our network?
“Continue your important work, connect fans and their organisations. You’re doing football a great service.”
What is your message to fans who want to have a say in their club or are trying to save their traditional identity of their club?
“Never give up, sooner or later your club and partners will understand that it will not work without you. They will soon see that cooperation with fans always brings benefits.
SD Europe is definitely here to help you. They helped us.”
Want to learn more about The Bohemians Supporters Trust? Read up on them here!