“Hopefully I can ensure that long-term decisions that are important to supporters are taken after listening to supporters first. Ensuring good supporter involvement is vital for the club and for the supporters.”
D Europe returns with another in depth focus on fans on boards!
Following on from the interview with SD Europe Board Member Lasse Bauer about his club Brøndby IF, our focus shifts to Norwegian side SK Brann.
As previously discussed in the article focusing on Brøndby IF, there are a variety of ways for supporters to have influence over the running of their football clubs, including the member-run model, structured dialogue and supporter liaison.
Another method is fan-elected directors. Through fan-elected board members, supporters and football clubs can work together with trust. Their purpose is to represent the views of supporters at board level, giving them influence in how the football club is run.
SK Brann, a member-run football club who currently play in the 2nd tier of Norwegian football, has recently appointed a supporter to its board, Per Arne Flatberg.
A life-long supporter who has been an active member of the club’s supporter community, Per shares an insight into his experience so far.
Recently, SD Europe also interviewed the SLO at SK Brann, which you can read here.
You are a supporter of SK Brann and you have been democratically elected to the board of the club by its members, what’s your background as a supporter? (How long have you been a supporter, in what capacities have you been involved in the fan scene etc.)
“I come from the terraces and have been a singing and standing supporter since my first match at Brann Stadium back in 1987. It was love at first sight for me. I've been heavily involved in the supporter movement and I still am. I've served on the board of our supporters’ club for five years, then went on to serve on the board of the national supporters organisation Norsk Supporterallianse for close to a decade. I've also been involved in several projects run by SD Europe and Football Supporters Europe.”
How does the election process work? Who can take part in it?
“Any member over the age of 15 is able to stand for in the elections. Brann is one of the larger clubs in Norway, with around 1,500 members. The yearly membership fee is NOK 500 (€50). The board is elected at our AGM in early March, and candidates are nominated by an independent nomination committee. When I first was elected last year, I was not nominated by the committee, but members are able to suggest board members at the meeting. As there was a lot of tension between the board and fans at that time, my name was put forward and I was elected. After a troublesome 2021, which among other things saw three out of seven board members, including the chair, resign, all remaining board members made their seats available. However, the nomination committee wanted me to continue, and I was re elected for another year.”
How will your presence on the board of the club benefit the supporters?
“Hopefully I can ensure that long-term decisions that are important to supporters are taken after listening to supporters first. Ensuring good supporter involvement is vital for the club and for the supporters. That doesn't mean that we have a members meeting every time we want to buy or sell a player, but rather that the direction we take as a club is governed by the values shared between terraces and club.”
Like all clubs in Norway, SK Brann is a member-run football club. How do the supporters value this?
“It's vital. Decisions are made in a predictive way, involving supporters and members in all important processes. It certainly would be possible in a model with external owners too, but the fact that the board needs to answer to the members makes us more likely to ensure good, transparent processes and involve the owners (the members) continuously. From a supporters perspective, it's always been our club, and connecting the emotional ownership with real ownership is a game changer. Over the years, we've seen countless times that member ownership has prevented the club from making decisions against the interest of supporters and I believe it's one of the reasons Brann is one of the largest clubs in Norway, even after relegation.”
What would your advice be to other clubs who do not have supporter representation on their board?
“You're missing out on a great opportunity. Supporters have valuable experience to bring to the boardroom, and in a world where board members (at least at Brann) have been found among local business people and former players, the supporter perspective is often lost. It is extremely valuable for a club to have people with varying backgrounds on the board, and from a commercial viewpoint, it's always good to have close connections to your most important, demanding and valuable customers. Some of the brightest minds and most hard working people in football are found in the supporters movement. Too often, we see that people are neglected just because they prefer to see their football standing and chanting.”
How long will you serve on the board? Can you stand again after your term?
“I'm elected for a one year period now, and can stand for reelection for further two year periods.”
What do you hope to accomplish during your term? What are the most important questions for Brann, in your opinion?
“This year is particularly challenging for us. We need to get promotion for our men's team back into the top league. Last year's relegation had the potential to stop a lot of the good work being done at the club. We can have one year at level two, but another year will have severe consequences. For the first time ever, Brann has a women's team, and is in the process of doing a complete merger with last year's champions, Sandviken, who this year plays as Brann and will play in Europe. Our pitch and training facilities will need a significant upgrade this year, and finding the right technical solution that will serve the club well is an important task which is also extremely important for our fans. Finally, Brann has been in stark opposition to plans from the league organisation to make several changes to the format and ownership structures in Norwegian football. We will continue fighting against proposals that will alienate supporters from our football.”
Brann got relegated last season, what are your hopes for the coming season?
“Of course, our goal is to be promoted. Brann is one of the largest clubs in Norway, the top team in Norway's second largest city. For the club, our members and the city, it's unacceptable to play at level two. For the women's team, we aim to qualify for the group stage in the Champions League.”
How is the relationship between the board and the fans in Brann, generally speaking?
“Not too good. Board members are often seen as being disconnected to the fan scene in general and rarely seen outside of the VIP lounges. Meeting members and fans have often been delegated to management, and board members haven't participated enough in fan initiatives. Some board members have made an effort to be more visible and more accessible, but we have a long way to go.”
SD Europe would like to thank Per Arne Flatberg and SK Brann!
In the coming weeks, SD Europe will return its attention to Brøndby IF when its new fan representative on the football club board is officially appointed!
Get in touch with SD Europe here to find out more about fan representation on football club boards.