Last week (26/03) Israeli supporters gathered for a second annual conference, jointly organised by Israfans, the national umbrella organisation for democratic supporters groups, supporters trusts and member-run clubs, Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem, Haadumim of Hapoel Tel Aviv with the aid of community social workers and Msw students of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. More than 150 supporters represented some 20 groups and clubs, including Macabi Ashdod, Hapoel Ashdod, Hapoel “Rubi” Haifa, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Afula, Maccabi Netanya, Hapoel Kfar Saba, Bnei Sachnin and more.
In his opening speech, Israfans chair Shay Golub said: “Last year there were more new groups managed by their fans. We need to maintain and take advantage of this momentum and see even more next year“. Shay was followed by Eli Festman, Chairman of Haadumim who said “I strongly believe in the involvement of fans, I think this is the future of the sport because sport belongs to the fans“. Final speaker at the introduction session was Motti Nayger, Dean of the Communications Department of the Netanya Acamedic College, who said “Sports fans are not merely spectators, or hostile remarks in referees notebooks and newspaper headlines. Sport fans are a positive factor with huge impact in the game and the society“.
SD Europe was also invited to speak at the conference and representatives Ben Shave and Loukas Anastasiadis shared best practices from Europe on the Supporter Liaison Officer project, dialogue and case studies of supporter organisations working together with national governing bodies; and the positive impact this cooperation has on the game. The end of the first part of the conference saw Oriel Daskal, football journalist and blogger, presenting a summary of different ownership models and supporter initiatives around the world. He concluded: “It is clear that there can be different ownership and participation models, but what really matters at the end of the day is supporters being professional and acting with a plan, in a professional manner“.
Representatives of supporters’ organisations that are today fully responsible for or involved in the management of their clubs (Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Beitar Nordia, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Haifa) shared important details on the circumstances that led them to be in charge of their clubs, as well as updates on the key developments and milestones during this process.
Expert panels and lectures on financial transparency and ticket prices addressed specific issues faced by sport in Israel. The results of the campaign for the reduction of the ticket prices for football supporters, as well as the reasons that forced supporters to start this campaign were presented to the participants; the campaign was run by supporter organisations and individual supporters and was also backed by some clubs. In addition, a report on club income streams (benefactor cash injections, TV rights, sponsorship, tickets etc.) demonstrated a lack of transparency and uncertainty regarding levels of income, how it is spent and whether it is managed for the benefit of the club and its community.
For the headline panel discussion, Barry Ben-Zeev (Board member of the Haadumim trust), was joined by Oren Hasson (CEO of the newly founded Israeli league), Itamar Chizik (CEO of Maccabi Haifa), Roy Daniel (CEO of Maccabi Netanya), Zuhair Bahlul (Parliament member) and Dr. Shlomit Guy (sports sociology professor). Panellists answered all questions asked directly from the supporters, to whom they also explained their opinions about football, the reasoning behind certain decisions, their concerns and suggestions for an improved sport world in Israel. Zuhair Bahlul (MP) said “Why is there no transparency in football? There are shady people involved with football and no one knows why. People have the right to know and it is our duty to discover it all. We need to establish an inquiry intervention committee to counter the involvement of the underworld“.