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League of Ireland supporters gather at ISN event in Dublin

Supporters from across the League of Ireland attended an Irish Supporters Network (ISN) workshop entitled ‘Towards a Sustainable League’ at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin on March 26th.

SD Europe’s Niamh O’Mahony was in attendance as the founding members of ISN, FORAS (Cork City), Galway United Soccer Co-op, Finn Harps and the 1895 Trust led presentations and discussions on Sustainable Finance, what the SLO role can mean for the League of Ireland, why Community activities are vital and the importance of Fan Engagement.

Director of the League, Fran Gavin, opened the meeting and said the FAI was “fully supportive” of the workshop’s theme. He spoke of how collective action, with all interested parties involved, was key in helping the League moving forward.

Niamh gave an update on the ongoing Erasmus + project, which includes ISN as a contributing organisation, as well as an overview of SD Europe’s plans for 2017 and beyond. The project has seen representatives of ISN attend events in London, Manchester and Malmo to date.

Cork City vice chairman Mike Derham and Galway Soccer Co-op’s Gavan Duffy then gave a summary of the Sustainable Finance presentation heard by Erasmus + partners in Malmo last November. Finance is a considerable and ongoing concern for most Irish football clubs.

SLOs from Cork City and Finn Harps presented their view of the role in Ireland – explaining match-to-match activities and how discussions with their European counterparts have helped to develop the role in Cork. Harps, in contrast, use the role to connect their overseas (or ‘exiled’ supporters) with the club throughout the week but particularly on match night. The CCFC SLOs are currently working on a handbook for SLOs in the League.

After lunch, FSE CEO Ronan Evain introduced his organisation and explained the success behind the Fan Embassies many Irish supporters would have seen at Euro 2016 in France.

Ken McCue of SARI (Sports Against Racism Ireland) outlined his organisation’s activities during the next session on community, before Peter Madden of Shamrock Rovers talked about his club’s decision to hire a full-time Community Officer at the club. Rovers are seeing an increase of families, youth people and kids involved because of the outreach related to their CO’s work.

The final session of the day focused on Fan Engagement, and how proper dialogue and two-way communication with supporters is vital and can also help inform clubs and national associations better. The survey showed that work commitments have a significant impact on how many games fans attend and that the vast majority of supporters, from member-owned clubs or otherwise, would all like to see better and more detailed communications from their respective board.

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