The ancient Roman ruins scattered around the Catalan city of Tarragona provided a spectacular backdrop to the fifth meeting of Spain’s Fútbol Popular movement at the end of July (27-29).
Hosted by FC Tarraco, fan-owned clubs from across the country gathered for debate, knowledge sharing and discussion and, of course, an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on what has been an incredible season for many of the organisations involved. (Read our 2017/18 season review.)
Kicking off the weekend at the home of the city’s famous castellers Jove Xiquets de Tarragona (or human castles!), the FC Sankt Pauli Catalunya Fan Club outlined their connection with the German football club, presenting the club’s ethos and activities. Next, the attendees discussed some of the challenges facing the game of football today, not just in Spain but across the globe.
Football clubs involved with the Fútbol Popular movement focus on principles of democracy, inclusion, cooperative and community – values reflected by the organisations in SD Europe’s wider network across the continent.
La sesión vespertina del V Encuentro de #FútbolPopular arranca con una mesa redonda sobre fidelización y captación de nuevos socios pic.twitter.com/waUPXjLLvC — Fútbol Popular 18 (@FutbolPopular18) July 28, 2018
Saturday morning saw a passionate and lengthy discussion about the importance of a vibrant underage or academy section for clubs. Common challenges to everyone involved included being able to dedicate adequate resources (finance, supports and volunteer time) to the activities as well as educating parents, players and coaches alike about the clubs’ central ethos and objectives.
The next discussion focused on member and volunteer engagement and how to encourage loyalty and commitment. All the clubs at the meeting highlighted this as a particular topic of interest.
SD Europe’s Development and Communications Manager, Niamh O’Mahony, was also able to share the insights learned during the recent Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football Erasmus+ project. As part of that initiative a training workshop on this specific topic was held in Gelsenkirchen, home of Schalke 04 last summer.
Fresh from a siesta, the meeting heard Niamh provide an overview of activities and achievements by fan-owned clubs across Europe alongside the secretary of national supporters organisation Fasfe, Emilio Abejón. In addition to the successes in Spain, other highlights included league and cup titles for Cork City in Ireland, US Fasano’s promotion to Serie D in Italy and the campaign by supporters groups to preserve the 50+1 rule in Germany.
As a former board member and secretary of FORAS, the supporters trust that owns and runs 100% of Cork City, Niamh was able to discuss and answer questions about the club’s progress and plans for the future. She also reinforced the importance of fan-owned football clubs supporting each other more generally within a national network such as Fútbol Popular.
“Fan-owned or member-run clubs face specific challenges that other football clubs do not. That’s why it’s even more important than democratic football clubs reach out and learn from the experiences, achievements and challenges faced by other counterparts, taking what’s relevant back to their own situations. Fútbol Popular clubs are quite the inspiration on and off the field,” Niamh said.
Next, the meeting heard from Futboleries (Alba Fernández), Wanderers (Mario Gago) and Los Otros 18 (Samuel Redríguez), before hearing about developments in Italy from Giuseppe Dopone of Sport Popolare.
Desperdicis, a female supporters group from Unió Esportiva Sant Andreu, also shared their experiences in addressing the role of women in the world of football. There was concern amongst many attendees over the continuing struggle to get women involved not just in Fútbol Popular clubs, but in football in general in Spain.