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Reforming Football For The Better: The Supporters’ Approach

SD Europe has been working with its members and stakeholders to examine and explore the specific areas demanding action and relief for reform in European football long before the Covid-19 pandemic emphasised the need by laying bare the deep-rooted vulnerabilities of the game…

The appeal to German football governing bodies by Unsere Kurve in July 2020 (see below) harmonises with SD Europe’s focus on football reforms and presented us with a springboard to introduce our work and that of our members to change football for the better. SD Europe’s remit at the European level is, as a democratic organisation, by nature driven and supported by the members of the organisation. 

There are four main principles that SD Europe and its membership have identified as prerequisites for a better football in the future and which form the bedrock of our projects and programmes:

  1. Democracy: Football fans need to have a say in the running of their clubs through democratic structures and by upholding a community focus. More football clubs should be member-run and, if not possible, supporters should have shareholding rights and board representation. Supporters need to be represented at football governing bodies too.

  2. Cooperation: Fans, football clubs and football governing bodies need to work together closely by being partners in dialogue.The relationships between national supporter organisations and football governing bodies need to be improved and provide the necessary platform for fans to self-organise and create representative bodies that positively contribute to the development of domestic football. At club level, the role of supporter liaison officers is key to ensure cooperation.

  3. Solidarity (fair competition): There must be fair redistribution of revenue across the pyramid, from the top to the grassroots and across leagues. It is essential to ensure that football remains a fair competition.

  4. Sustainability: Licensing regulations need to help clubs to increase their financial, social and environmental capital in a sustainable way. Given its stature and influence in the world, football needs to lead as an example to other sectors by taking meaningful responsibility for its structural, financial, social and environmental sustainability.

These four components form the basis of our organisational principles. Learn more about them and their corresponding actions here.

For SD Europe, the process to begin discussions around reform in European football began in 2019 by bringing together experts and stakeholders into a working group called “The future of solidarity”.

For most of our membership and wider network, the growing gap between the big and small clubs and the big and small leagues is felt and an even bigger gap could have fatal impacts on them. The question is how can we increase the revenue of clubs that don’t play European competitions but are part of the football pyramid, provide the social structure of the sport and develop the young talent of the future.

To really find a solution to the problem, we believe the focus should not just be on the UCL reform process or how to recover from Covid-19’s impact The focus also needs to be on the national level, where the gap between the elite clubs and the rest and the big five leagues and the rest is a concern. In each country, between the elite and grassroots, is where the problem lies. The imbalance needs to be addressed and solutions need to be found to prepare and equip the system for the challenges ahead but also to ensure football’s social value can unleash its real potential.

Action by our members

Whilst SD Europe has started to address these areas through its first working groups and the progression of its EU Erasmus+ projects, its members have made encouraging progress at the national level, working with the football authorities and making considered recommendations to drive reform. Many national supporter organisations have made meaningful steps to demonstrate their commitment to democracy, cooperation, solidarity and sustainability as a part of the process to achieve football reforms.

With national supporter organisations working on strengthening their relationships with football bodies to effect change across the continent and helping to drive SD Europe’s work at the European level, the drive towards reforming football based on greater democracy, cooperation, solidarity and sustainability is making progress.

Unsere Kurve (Germany)

As mentioned above, Unsere Kurve poetically and firmly appealed “Quo vadis, Fußballl?” (Whither football?) calling for reform through specific actions:

  1. Democratic: member associations must form the basis of football clubs

  2. Economic sustainability must be a priority

  3. Football must work within effective ethical frameworks

  4. Football needs greater solidarity throughout the game which must be agreed on and accepted

The group has called for all national fan organisations to prepare their priorities for a Task Force, which is said to be setup by the DFL (German Football League) in the autumn.

You can read an English transcription of Unsere Kurve’s appeal here.

Update: The DFL Task Force has now come to a conclusion. Zukunft Profifussball has released statement concluding that there were positive outcomes whilst more of the issues highlighted in its proposals still need to be addressed. Read the statement here.

FASFE (Spain)

Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español (FASFE) has submitted a four-point proposal to the Spanish Football Federation outlining potential support to clubs

  1. Strengthening the channels of participation for fans, e.g. through SLOs

  2. Cooperation on fan group organisation and volunteer recruitment/management

  3. Cooperation for the extension of the Fans Matter! E+ project to training of board members, executives and staff of any club that needs support

The FSA (England & Wales)

The Football Supporters’ Association, with backing from British MPs, football club owners and a former-FA Chairman, has made proposals to the English FA based on the below two principles.

  1. The significance of football clubs must be properly recognised. Clubs are cultural commodities, the biggest expression of community identity in our country, with loyalty built up over generations. They should be afforded levels of protection in keeping with listed buildings or conservation areas.

  2. Massive conflicts of interest exist within the game and they must be removed. The Premier League, EFL, and National League are effectively member bodies for football clubs and supporters don’t accept that self-regulation works.”

Read its proposals in full here.

Irish Supporters Network (Republic of Ireland)

ISN recently surveyed their membership which showed that “League of Ireland supporters seek formal voice within League structure”.

Read here.

ANS (France)

Association Nationale des Supporters are involved in discussions with the French Sports Ministry, the Ligue de France Professionel, club SLOs and other stakeholders on a regular basis as a part of the Instance Nationale du Supportérisme. In a recent meeting in May, the ANS contributed its opinion on the effects of Covid-19 on football.

SFSU (Sweden)

Although not officially involved in the discussion about the response to COVID, SFSU is in an ongoing communication with Swedish stakeholders regarding the return to football and the potential impact of the crisis to the clubs. SFSU have firmly expressed their support to any decision that ensures the sustainability of Swedish football within a framework that does not violate the rights of the supporters, as well as their support to the SLO role and all activities related to supporter involvement in the decision-making process.


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