Connections between Cork City FC and Malmö FF existed long before they both agreed to became part of SD Europe’s ‘Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football’ project back in 2015. The two clubs had crossed paths previously in the Intertoto Cup in 2004, and were also in touch around the time of City’s 30th anniversary celebrations in 2014.
The similarities between the two clubs are also interesting and relevant: both clubs are located in the second cities of their respective countries, both are currently leading their respective League competitions by a decent margin, have expectations of playing in European football each season and have an eye fixed of developing (on and off the field) further in the coming years.
Malmö FF board member Pontus Hanson and club SLO Pierre Nordberg visited Cork back in April along with Schalke 04, and the return visit to Sweden took place recently from Friday, August 11th to Sunday, August, 13th.
Arriving on Friday, Cork City FC board members John Kennedy and Mike Derham experienced match night at Malmö FF, as Kalmar FF came to the Swedbank Stadion for an important Allsvenskan fixture.
Pierre Nordberg, Pontus Hansson (both Malmo FF), John Kennedy, Mike Derham (both Cork City FC) & Niamh O’Mahony (SD Europe).
A key objective for Cork City was to gain a deeper understanding of the supporter liaison officer (SLO), and Sweden are considered to be a best practice country in this regard. Mike shadowed Pierre for the evening, understanding the different responsibilities and priorities required on match night while also seeing an SLO working in his (or her!) home environment.
The supporter liaison role is a requirement for Uefa licensing, and is a key tool in encouraging improved dialogue and respectful interaction between club officials, security teams and supporters year round, and not just on match night.
John, meanwhile, and SD Europe’s Niamh O’Mahony were shown a number of initiatives put in place on match night at the Swedbank Stadion, including a dedicated section for children 14 years of age and younger, to ensure the best possible experience for supporters. The pair also met with a member of the club’s election committee to discuss how it operates in relation to the main board and members alike.
The exchange continued the following day with a series of meetings at the Swedbank Stadion. First, the delegation met with Malmö FF CEO Niclas Carlnén, who outlined key off-field activities and the progress made in recent years to ensure the current Swedish champions can continue its growth and development. A central part of these activities is the club’s focus on supporting its surrouding community.
Swedbank Stadium, Malmo
Next up was a tour of the club’s museum and an in-depth discussion about Malmö FF’s schools programme with Staffan Tapper, the man who captained the club in the 1979 European Cup final against Nottingham Forest.
Staffan has headed up the development of the schools programme which gives additional training and support to promising young footballers (boys and girls) – so long as they maintain their academic studies alongside their love for football. From one class initially, the programme has expanded considerably over the years, demonstrating how football and education can combine together with impressive effect.
No visit to Malmö would be complete without calling into the Supporterhuset in the city centre (Södra Förstadsgatan). Set up initially with the support of the club, it’s now an independent meeting space and coffee shop for all Malmö FF supporters to meet, attend lectures and talks, have a coffee, buy merchandise or prepare match day flags.
The message was once again clear: in order to flourish football clubs need to be an integral element within their community.
“SD Europe has seen the value of exchanging information and best practice over the years, and this Erasmus+ project has allowed us organise a series of exchange visits for member-run clubs and national supporters organisations,” Niamh said. “The work that Malmö FF does on and off the field is an inspiration to many across Europe, and it was fantastic to hear about the club’s work, especially in the community, from staff, board members and supporters. We hope the connections being made can be of value for some time to come.”