“It’s Time To Involve Football Supporters In Decision Making”: Key Points From SD Europe’s AGM 2021

“Fans, national associations, members of the European Parliament and UEFA all agree: it’s time to involve supporters in decision-making structures at clubs, national associations and UEFA.” – SD Europe CEO Antonia Hagemann

Supporters groups and member-run football clubs from 23 countries across 4 continents, accompanied by representatives of UEFA, FIFPRO, national associations and European Parliament, congregated on Saturday 8th May for SD Europe’s AGM. Following the formalities, the attendees examined the importance of structural dialogue at a vital juncture for European football.

Key points

  1. SD Europe & FIFPRO announce cooperation. SD Europe CEO Antonia Hagemann said: “Fans and players are at the heart of football – they create the shared identities we treasure so much. We believe it’s time to improve the relationships between fans and players, highlight our common values and ensure the problems football faces are addressed!”

  2. SD Europe has shared €1.45m with different football stakeholders – cooperation and solidarity is key! All towards supporter involvement in governance, decision-making and fan dialogue.

  3. Julien Zylberstein, Chief of Governance and Stakeholder Affairs at UEFA, stated that: “Going forward, UEFA intends to create the conditions for a more structured dialogue with organised fan organisations at European level.”

  4. SD Europe is driving policy change via the draft Council of the European Union Resolution on Police Liaison with SLOs – a possible first for a supporters organisation!

  5. FASFE Member & Director of CAP Cuidad de Murcia Ulises Illan joins SD Europe’s Board and Dr. Borja Garcia joins the Advisory Board

  6. Executive Summary 2021 out now! – download here

Now Or Never: The Importance of Structural Dialogue

During the panel discussion titled ‘Now Or Never: The Importance of Structural Dialogue”, the partners of SD Europe’s “Kick-off!” project discussed their progress to date in developing structural dialogue between fans and national associations in Spain, Germany, Netherlands and Norway and agreed how vital it is looking to the future. Markus Sotirianos, from German national supporters organisation Unsere Kurve, commented “To us it’s an opportunity for both sides to learn from our mistakes. We want to know the social arenas we are in and create an understanding, not just one sided perceptions. This project offers the opportunity for understanding on a completely new level”

Rune Nordhaug, the Club Licensing Manager at the NFF offered his perspective of the relationship with supporters in Norway; “”Regarding if the NSA representatives are the voice of the fans, they have made a good platform to represent as many people as possible. It’s impossible to represent everyone, but they have created a good platform to have dialogue.”

Julien Zylberstein, Chief of Governance and Stakeholder Affairs at UEFA, commented that “UEFA acknowledges and reiterates its support for SD Europe’s initiatives, from SLO-related activities to EU-funded projects such as Transfer, Liaise and Kick-Off!”, concluding that “Going forward, UEFA intends to create the conditions for a more structured dialogue with organised fan organisations at European level”.

Players & Fans “At The Heart Of Football”

SD Europe welcomed FIFPRO’s General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann to talk on the renewed cooperation between the two organisations. Jonas addressed the attendees by saying “We are very glad to be initiating this dialogue with SD Europe. We won’t agree on everything, but we do have a lot of commonalities… A common thread is that we both put people at the centre of what we do. We also want to see more democratic accountability from decision-makers in football… And like fans, our members depend on the sustainable growth of small and medium-sized clubs”. SD Europe and FIFPRO will be working together over the coming months to bring fans and players together on common grounds to build a better football.

Empowering Fans Through Democracy & Solidarity

SD Europe confirmed it has increased members resources by almost €800,000 over the past few years by supporting projects and campaigns focusing on more democracy and cooperation in football. In addition, SD Europe has shared €1.45m with different stakeholders to develop cooperation and solidarity focused towards supporter involvement in decision making and fan dialogue via the SLO.

Celebrating Hapoel Jerusalem FC!

SD Europe Board Member and former Chair of Hapoel Jerusalem FC offered an insight into the club’s journey from the bottom of the Israeli football pyramid as a breakaway club in 2007 to reclaiming the club’s name last year and finally reaching the country’s first division last week. SD Europe CEO Antonia Hagemann remarked how she remembered seeing the team playing against teams in the desert all those years ago and that Hapoel Jerusalem are a shining example of what is possible when a community is in control of its football club.

Supporter Liaison

During the AGM, Stuart Dykes, Head of SLO Development confirmed that almost 200 Supporter Liaison Officers have been trained through the SLO Education programme developed and run by SD Europe in conjunction with the UEFA Academy. Additionally, that SD Europe is working to drive policy change via a draft Resolution on Police Liaison with SLOs for submission to the Council of the European Union. If adopted, this would be a first time a supporters organisation has been able influence EU policy at such a level.

New-Look Board & Advisory Board

SD Europe welcomed Ulises Illán to its Board. “Uli” is a Director of member-owned CAP Ciudad de Murcia from Spain. He is also president of the club’s foundation and Coordinator of “Play Football Together” project, a football team made up of people at risk of social exclusion and refugees, which competes in the regional league. Uli is also a strong advocate for growing the ‘Fútbol Popular’ movement through FASFE in Spain to get more clubs into the control of their fans.

In addition, Dr. Borja García joined SD Europe’s advisory board bringing significant experience in sport, politics and academia. A Lecturer in Sport Management and Policy, he holds a PhD in Politics, International Relations and European Studies from Loughborough University (UK), where he completed his thesis titled ‘The European Union and the Governance of Football: A game of levels and agendas’. Borja brings a thorough understanding in advising national associations, UEFA and other key stakeholders on European Union sports policy, having conducted vast amounts of academic research in the area and in social-science research related to football.

SD Europe’s Executive Summary 20/21 Out Now!

SD Europe has released its ‘executive summary’ which complies the organisation’s key activities from the last year in addition to framing the organisation’s focus from 2021 onwards. It can be downloaded here.

Despite the constraints of having to hold the AGM virtually, the event demonstrated the vibrancy and tenacity of the individuals involved in member-run clubs and supporters organisations across Europe and further.

SD Europe would like to extend a special and warm thank you to all guests for taking the time out to attend and looks forward to a time when the network can meet in person with anticipation once again.