Back in January Malmö FF visited Schalke 04 as part of the SD Europe Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football project.
Malmö FF were represented by board member Pontus Hansson, CEO Niclas Carlnen, Communications Officer Peter Åhlander and SLO & Membership Manager Pierre Nordberg. In a packed two-day agenda, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with different departments and people in the club, as well as being shown around the stadium and the ‘blue’ city of Gelsenkirchen.
The first day started with meeting the spotters police delegation, where participants discussed the ways police engage with SLOs and deal with different supporters’ groups. It continued with an exchange of best practices and experiences between the media departments and the social media managers of the two clubs, walking the Schalker Meile (the infamous road connecting the city to the old stadium), visiting the “Schalker Fanprojekt” that organises activities for younger supporters and a meeting with the local representatives of SD Europe members Unsere Kurve. That evening the delegation had dinner with the CEO of Schalke Hilft!, the foundation that connects Schalke 04 to the city, who is also the head of the different Schalke 04 sports departments (basketball, handball, athletics, table tennis and e-sports).
Participants had an early start to the second day, as Schalke 04 hosted a home league game in the Bundesliga. It began with a visit to the membership department of Schalke 04, which is run by Florian Hartmann.
Schalke 04’s membership department works with, and for, the club’s some 145,000 members. The membership department is also responsible for communication with members, improving relations with members, increasing membership, improving supporters’ understanding of the way Schalke 04 functions as a club as well as organising the club’s annual general meeting and more.
On the Malmö FF side, Pierre Nordberg has similar responsibilities in dealing with the club’s 5,600 members. Membership is expected to rise in the coming season, following the club’s 2016 League win and its qualification for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League. Malmo FF have already expanded their SLO & Membership department, will increase the events organised exclusively for members and reward and promote long-lasting membership.
At a business lunch with Bodo Menze (former Schalke 04 player, Schalke 04 member for more than 50 years and the club’s main contact for UEFA), Malmö FF CEO Niclas Carlnen said: “As we move deeper into the project, we see the great benefit of the exchanges between member-run clubs. Regardless of the size of our finances, membership and fan base, it is evident that member-run clubs face similar challenges. Thanks to SD Europe and Erasmus+, Malmö FF have greatly benefited and we look forward to maintaining this relationship at club level for a long time.”
Next came meetings with the Schalke 04 Head of Communication and Head of Marketing, which both sides found extremely helpful. The meetings concluded with a very engaging and mutually beneficial discussion with the Veltins Arena Manager – both clubs own and run their modern stadium, facing similar challenges and responding to them in different ways.
Taking back what was discussed, the two clubs are expected to review and optimise the internal processes they use to manage their respective stadiums, making it even more friendly to the supporters, improving the match day experience for all parties and diversifying their income streams by organising different events throughout the year.
Florian Hartmann said: “The members and the fans are the heart of Schalke 04. For quite a long time, we have been long looking for ways to exchange knowledge and best practices with other member-run clubs on improving the mutual relationship between the club and the members. This became a reality with SD Europe’s ‘Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football‘ Erasmus+ project. We are looking forward to the next visit and to hosting the workshop on membership and volunteering in our stadium.”
The delegation then attended the evening’s game against Eintracht Frankfurt, forming two shadowing groups to observe how Schalke 04’s Communications Unit and lead home SLO Thomas Kirschner work and liaise with the different stakeholders during match day.
Representatives of both clubs will now visit another project partner, Cork City FC, in early April.