With the European Championships in full swing, you could be forgiven for thinking that the club season drew to a close weeks ago. However, in some countries (Ireland and Sweden for example) the league has merely hit the pause button; whilst others have been (not so) quietly wrapping up their play-offs.
However, we can now safely say that the 2015/16 season is over, and it’s been another successful one for the growing number of member-run clubs across Europe. Below you will find a comprehensive (though we won’t claim definitive) rundown of those clubs who have celebrated promotion in recent weeks.
Congratulations to all, for showing that another football is possible: one where clubs combine on-pitch success with an unwavering commitment to their local communities.
We begin in England, with (who else) AFC Wimbledon. A club that in many ways embodies the values and principles of the movement, and which has inspired like-minded supporters across Europe, will compete in League One (level three of the English pyramid) next season, after a pair of play-off victories against Accrington Stanley and Plymouth Argyle. David Conn’s wonderful look back at the club’s history prior to the final set the scene perfectly, and the recent Vice Sports below shows exactly what this promotion means the Dons, as they continue to prepare for a return home.
Elsewhere in the English pyramid, phoenix club Darlington 1883, formed in 2012 after the demise of Darlington FC, secured promotion as champions from the Northern Premier League Premier Division to the National League North, where they will meet fellow member-run clubs AFC Telford United and FC United of Manchester next season. Banbury United were the third side on the up, from the Evo Stik League Southern Division One South & West to Evo Stik League Southern Premier Division – not a bad way to end their first season as a member-run club!
In Israel, two member-run clubs celebrated title-winning campaigns: Hapoel Robi Shapira Haifa topped the table in the Liga Bet North B, marking their second successive promotion since being founded in 2014 by supporters of Hapoel Haifa. They will play in the Liga Alef (third level) next season. Also champions were Beitar Nordia Jerusalem, a club formed by supporters who could no longer accept the situation at Beitar Jerusalem. They finished the season as champions of the Liga Gimel Central, and will begin 2016/17 in the Liga Bet South B. Finally (in football!) Maccabi Ironi Ashdod secured promotion from the Liga Gimel South in their first season as a member-run club, and will also join Beitar Nordia in the Liga Bet South B (fourth tier) next season.
Away from football, Israel also has a thriving network of member-run clubs and supporters’ groups in Basketball, and one of these – Hapoel Haifa – secured promotion to the Liga Leumit (second level of the pyramid). Clubs and groups from both sports are supported and represented by Israfans, the national organisation and long-time partner of SD Europe.
In Italy, the story of Cava United Football Club has been related on this website in the past. Nevertheless, over a month on from their promotion, the success of Italy’s first member-run club remains worthy of celebration! From the Terza to Seconda Categoria, Il Calcio è della Gente…
Quantity isn’t everything, but the number of promotions celebrated by members of the Fútbol Popular network in Spain indicates the growing strength of the movement, and its status as a viable alternative to traditional club structures. No fewer than six clubs finished 2015/16 in the promotion places. Atlético Club de Socios, a multi-sports club formed by Atlético de Madrid supporters in 2007, secured promotion on the final day, rising from Madrid’s Segunda de Aficionados Grupo 6 up to Primera Aficionados. One of the network’s newest members, Avilés Stadium C.F., were formed in June 2015 by a group of supporters distraught at the situation in the Asturias city, and quickly established themselves as a genuine alternative. Notable for their brilliant marketing campaigns, they went the entire season undefeated, rising from the Segunda Autonómica Grupo 2 up to Primera Autonómica Asturias. Hosts of the first Encuentro Fútbol Popular in 2014, C.D. Palencia are now also the movement’s top representative in the Spanish pyramid, having been promoted from the Tercera División Grupo 8 to the Segunda B, the country’s third level. The club also made a marketing splash of their own, with the launch of a remarkable play-off limited edition kit. Hot on their heels are neighbours Unionistas de Salamanca C.F., who rose from the Castilla y León Primera División Regional Grupo B up to the Tercera División Grupo 8. In Galicia, U.D. Ourense enjoyed a second successive promotion, as Champions of the Segunda Autonómica Grupo 9. They’ll play in the Primera Autonómica Galicia next season. However, at the other end of the country Xerez Deportivo F.C. went one better, sealing their third promotion in a row, as Champions of the Segunda Andaluza Senior Cádiz. Their competitors in the 2016/17 Primera Andaluza will be keeping a close eye on the phoenix club, which since forming in 2013 has enjoyed a remarkable rise.
So, with a total of 14 member-run clubs celebrating promotion, it’s fair to say that 2015/16 was a success for the movement. The only way is up!