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SD Europe supports work of member-run clubs at ECA conference

SD Europe took part in a conference on the ‘Socio’ membership model or member-run football clubs organised by the European Club Association (ECA) from April 10th to 11th in the beautiful Croatian city of Split.

Entitled ‘Socio’ Membership Structure: From strategy to implementation, management, and practice, the two-day event aimed to share best practice around the benefits and challenges of football clubs that operate with a membership structure.

Including many of the biggest clubs in European football – SL Benfica, FC Barcelona, Athletic Club and SD Europe’s Erasmus+ partners FC Schalke 04 and Malmö FF, attendees heard a variety of presentations and discussion that focused on the development of strategy and implementation around membership structures.

SD Europe was invited to speak as part of a panel discussion and Q&A with representatives of ‘Socio’ clubs and European supporter bodies, including our Swedish member, Svenska Fotbollssupporterunionen (SFSU), our friends from FC Schalke 04 and former Supporters Direct board member, Sean Hamil of Birkbeck, University of London.

Closing panel discussion (Image credit: ECA)

SL Benfica CEO Domingos Soares de Oliveira outlined how the Portuguese club balances its business needs with a members-first approach. lub members are SL Benfica’s main stakeholders, and so their motto is: Winning for Them.

Jon Berasategi, General Manager of Athletic Club, later kicked off a session that focused on Spain by giving a fascinating insight into the values and members-led governance structure at his football club. Athletic have a long-standing tradition of developing players from the Basque Country, and also put members at the heart of all key decisions – including the construction and opening of a new stadium in 2013.

The day concluding by hearing from Pere Jansà Rodriguez, Director of the Social Area, at FC Barcelona. He explained that FCB supporters believe the ‘socio’ model is the best structure for the club. And, in a time when there has never been more money in the game, that requires a delicate balancing act in order to retain and protect the club’s values and ethos.

Stefanie Sydow of Schalke 04

The second day of the conference saw Stefanie Sydow of FC Schalke 04 outline the development of PR and communications activities at her football club, giving specific attention to how they promote and communication information about their annual general assembly – an event that usually sees over 10,000 members in attendance.

Highlighting the importance of strong supporter relations, SFSU chair Sofia Bohlin then explained how her organisation, as a national supporters organisation, has developed strong relations with football authorities and the country’s member-run clubs to create a new, positive, inclusive atmosphere within Swedish football.

Sofia was then joined on stage by Jon Berasategi, Florian Hartmann (FC Schalke 04), Slaven Marasović (HNK Hajduk), Sean Hamil (Birkbeck, University of London), and SD Europe’s Development and Communications Manager Niamh O’Mahony for the conference’s Closing Panel discussion. There was a particular focus on the benefit of hearing and learning from other organisations’ experience, with Niamh taking the opportunity to highlight the impact of our organisation’s Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football project.

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