‘110 years of history and passion’. If one image could sum up the weekend’s events in Ancona, a banner displayed by supporters during the short film that opened Sunday’s conference might well be it. There were many organisations and institutions represented at the Stadio del Conero, but all were clear on one point: something is changing in Italian football, and the Marche club is at its heart.
Perhaps the overriding sensation at the conclusion of the event was the sheer range of people and organisations who played a role in U.S. Ancona 1905 becoming the first professional Italian football club to be owned and managed by its community. It was nevertheless fitting that Sosteniamolancona president Raffaele Vietri opened the proceedings, with the democratic supporters’ group having been at the heart of a process which began with its formation, back in 2010.
It’s easy to forget that at that time, the immediate future of the club was far from secure. Nevertheless, with support and solidarity from the groups that form the membership of national organisation Supporters in Campo, Sosteniamolancona have managed to realise their ambition of putting the Ancona community at the heart of its football club. As Antonia Hagemann of SD Europe put it in her presentation: “in 2007 the idea of supporters running an Italian football club might have seemed crazy, today it’s a reality.”
Just how inspirational the achievement has been was made clear by the raft of messages sent in by European member-run clubs and supporters’ groups:
Bulgaria – Levski Sofia; Sinya Bulgaria
Israel – Beitar Nordia; Hapoel Katamon
Poland – Socios Gornik
Spain – FASFE; Atlético Club de Socios; Avilés Stadium CF; CAP Ciudad de Murcia; CD Palencia; FC Tarraco; UC Ceares; UD Ourense; Unionistas de Salamanca CF; Xerez Deportivo FC
UK – FC United; Exeter City Supporters’ Trust
Along with these, France’s Conseil National des Supporters and Ireland’s Cork City FC sent representatives to deliver their congratulations in person.
Of course, the journey has been far from easy, and could not have been achieved without co-operation and dialogue with many other organisations. Another overriding impression from Sunday’s event was the extent to which the club has built links with local and regional institutions, all of whom were clear in highlighting the social value that the club is in a position to generate.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the event was the vision for the future that clearly exists. Topics such as maintaining the financial sustainability of the club, involving as many supporters as possible in future projects, and making supporter involvement a day-to-day reality. This was earmarked as a priority by club president (and former Sosteniamolancona president) David Miani, as well as Gabriele Gravina, president of the Lega Pro. The latter provided strong backing for the project, stating that he felt something was changing in Italian football, with significant potential for the future.
Of course, what takes place on the pitch every Sunday is also a vital part of Ancona’s plans for the future, and it was only fitting that the event was followed by a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Biancorossi against Pisa. The result leaves the club 4th in the Lega Pro Girone B, a position that would earn them a spot in the play-offs for promotion to Serie B – back to where they were in 2010, when supporters united to save them. Proof, if further proof where needed, that Il Calcio è dei Tifosi.
SD Europe is an organisation that assists democratic supporters’ groups in achieving formal structured involvement in their clubs and associations, and developing member ownership of football clubs. Established in 2007 with support from UEFA, SD Europe also advises clubs on their ownership and governance structure and works with football governing bodies, leagues, UEFA, and European institutions. Currently, it is active in over 20 European countries and is responsible for the implementation of the Supporter Liaison Officer requirement (Art. 35, UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations).
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