SD Europe Proposes Special Status of Fans To European Parliament Sports Report

On Tuesday, MEP Tomasz Frankowski, had invited sports stakeholders to the first of two consultations for the next Sports Report to be issued by the European Parliament. The report will be drafted by mid -July and its presentation is scheduled just after the summer break at the end of August in the culture committee.

Every four years the European Parliament issues such a report covering the most pressing matters in sport and making recommendations to member states about how best to improve it.

Mr Frankwoski, the rapporteur of the report and a former professional football player, will in his report focus on topics such as the European Sport Model, recovery of the sector after the pandemic, good governance, integrity, social dimension of sport, sport and innovation, sustainability of sport and of course the cooperation between the institutions in the field of sport and dialogue with the sport sector.

The report will be based on the EPs most recent study on EU sports policy, which was published last month and aims to propose concrete proposals and solutions.

The aim of the consultation, which started on Tuesday, is to take into account the priorities of the different stakeholders. And on Tuesday the football stakeholders (FIFPRO, European Leagues, UEFA, FIFA and SD Europe), the IOC and other sports organisations from different sectors were asked to share their priorities.

Our proposals focus on a special status of fans!

Special Status of fans

We believe the new sports report should help manifest a special status for fans as stakeholders.

Fans ensure that football clubs exist to serve the long-term interests of their local and wider communities. Fans are a vital cog in football’s social engine. They are also the real investors in their clubs: financial, emotional and cultural.

This was felt in the past year, as the absence of fans from the stadium contributed to the hard hit of the pandemic on Europe’s social life and our collective ‘European’ identity and, more recently, highlighted by the intervention of fans to prevent the attempted coup by a handful of clubs who tried to take over our European model of football with the European Super League.

The time seems right to now take the next step:

  1. Football stakeholders agree that fans need to be involved in decision-making processes in football – on local, national and European level.

  2. Thanks to our extensive lobbying, the European Parliament, via the Fisas (2011) and Takkula (2016) reports have promoted more democratic ownership structures in football and the positive impact organised fans have in their communities. Lord Foulkes in his governance report from the Council of Europe will say the same – fans need to be involved in governance structures and decision making.

  3. The new EU Sports Policy report says that the most important target is to establish a culture of good governance in the long run.

And so the Frankowski report should now take the opportunity to formalise the special status of fans and others, e.g. UEFA via their Convention, need to follow.

Member-run PAC Omonia celebrate promotion to the 2nd Cypriot division

A value driven EU Sports Policy

We’d asked some of our members in the past months to let us know if they believe there is a European identity in Football. They all talked about their local football identity and said that on the European level they were coming together by sharing the same values – democracy, cooperation, solidarity, sustainability, diversity, etc.

These are the values of our membership and the ones we now want to be brought to lif

1. The report should promote a more democratic football – by involving supporters in the running of clubs and strengthening the clubs’ community focus:

  1. The European Institutions, Member States, governing bodies, national associations and leagues must take serious steps towards the adoption of the 50+1 ownership model, under which club members retain control of their club.

  2. Where this is not immediately possible, a minority shareholding in football clubs owned by an independent democratic fan organisation should be the minimum expectation, accompanied by rights such as board representation and guaranteed accountability of owners.

  3. Fans should be represented on the decision-making, or decision-proposing bodies, at European, national and local level

  4. And in line with the EU Policy recommendations we need to provide a framework that allows younger fans/activists to actively participate in sports politics

In general, decision-making needs to be more democratic. The EU Sports Policy report recommends to further develop our common understanding of good governance and more meetings between stakeholders. But there were several expert groups at the European Commission who looked into governance, together with member states and stakeholders. There is now a definition of good governance, an understanding of good practices and recommendations about how to achieve it. Instead of refining common understandings and meeting to talk about them, we need to agree to a more collective decision-making process and increased public policy/regulation.

2. The report should support a more cooperative approach between fans and all other stakeholders:

  1. By promoting low-barrier funding opportunities to help local and national fan organisations build capacity.

  2. By recognising the role of Supporter Liaison Officers as a key part in the cooperation process

3. The report should promote solidarity between the grassroot and elite levels of the game:

  1. The European Institutions should agree on a universal definition of solidarity in football, between and within leagues at national and European level

  2. Any concept of solidarity should consider not just the sharing of funds but also of human capital, knowledge and infrastructure

4. And finally, the report should promote sustainability – financial, structural, social and environmental sustainability, which needs to be consolidated by legislation and regulations at the European and national level:

  1. The European Institutions, Member States, governing bodies, national associations and leagues should consider football fans as allies in the fight against corruption, match-fixing, trafficking, violence and discrimination and empower them to engage in this fight

  2. The European Institutions, Member States, governing bodies, national associations and leagues must strengthen existing regulations such as UEFA’s FFP to prevent corruption, improve financial survivability and ensure compatibility with present and future requirements for a greener football

But any recommendations and solutions live or die with better governance in sport!

The European Model of Sport and the governance crisis in European football

There is a lot of talk about the European Model of Sport, the threat the attempted European Super League would have caused. The EMS’s importance to us all. All stakeholders talk about the need for solidarity between the elite and grassroots and the role of the EMS to save the pyramid. All sports federations highlight the need for the EMS to be strengthened, politically supported, also in terms of its governance.

But in some way these discussions are misleading. Yes, the EMS is a particular way of understanding Sport in Europe – one that is different from the US and Asia and one that is defined by special features – a grassroots approach, promotion and relegation, openness and links to local and national cultural identity. And it needs to be protected!

But apart from a common understanding of sports in the EU and particular features, the EMS, as initially defined in that famous 1998 European Commission working document and so much exploited by particular stakeholders, also outlines a governance structure that gives power and autonomy to the international and European federations such as the IOC, EOC, FIFA and UEFA with very little accountability or responsibility. It puts the sports federations at the top and other stakeholders further down the pyramid and shields them from the regulation and application of EU law, which brings a good degree of accountability with it.

The past few months have shown again that Football in Europe doesn’t have particular high standards when it comes to good governance. Some speak of a governance crisis.

Perhaps the EMS could be part of a solution, or perhaps we should talk about modelS, because it is clear that one size fits all is not a good recipe for efficient governance and regulation. We need the European institutions and stakeholders to review the model and agree a common understanding of it and find ways for a more collective decision-making, which involves all relevant stakeholders.

Many governing bodies have failed to adhere to good governance principles and perhaps it is time to think about a more targeted structure and active support system in Brussels, which would add value to the actual implementation of good governance in sport.

Without such a governance review and increased regulation any measures suggested in the Sports Report and elsewhere would have very limited impact.

Antonia Hagemann CEO SD Europe