The wonderful city of Gijón in northern Spain played host to the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) summer network meeting from July 19th to 22nd. Organised by Unión de Peñas Sportinguistas (UNIPES) and Spanish national supporters organisation FASFE, the event brought together supporters from across Europe to discuss a range of topical issues.
Kicking off two days of presentations and debate, the opening panel discussion focused on how the supporter liaison officer (SLO) and Disability Access Officer (DOA) roles can be implemented in Spain.
Speaking on behalf of SD Europe, Lena Gustafson Wiberg, also lead SLO at Djurgården IF in Sweden, highlighted the importance of recruiting from the stands, saying: “If you hire a marketing manager for the club, you hire an expert. The game has to happen when you hire an SLO.”
Lena spoke of the importance of SLOs learning from each other’s experiences, highlighting last Autumn’s bilateral meeting in Spain between the SLOs of Villarreal CF, Valencia CF, SK Slavia Prague and Pablo Bisbal of Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) as established best practice. Mr. Bisbal was also part of the panel discussion on the day.
“The interest and passion from supporters in Spain around the supporter liaison officer (SLO) role is clear,” Lena said. “We have seen across Europe that the role can have significant benefits for supporters and clubs alike and we’re happy to work with all interested stakeholders to progress our SLO work here.”
In addition, SD Europe was invited to contribute to a session on sports law reform and how supporters can use various legal tools at their disposal to advance their respective work.
SD Europe’s Development and Communications Manager, Niamh O’Mahony, highlighted the recent successful actions by Recre Trust and Israfans in order to further their own efforts.
Additional examples from across Europe, including successes around the 50+1 rule in Germany and Sweden, were shared with the meeting, before some final advice from the presentation: get organised, engage and take action!
Addressing the session, Pierre Barthélemy of Association Nationale des Supporters (ANS), explained how supporters in France have organised and come together to engage in-depth with political stakeholders around key issues in recent years – including a new sports law which made it mandatory for all professional football clubs to have an SLO.
ANS’s involvement in SD Europe’s LIAISE Erasmus+ project, which focuses on the development of the SLO role across Europe, has been an important step for the organisation as a result.
In conclusion, José Ramón Tuero del Prado from the PSOE socialist party, explained that the new sports law, which was put on hold because of a change in government, will be picked up by the new cabinet. He said he believes supporters need to be consulted as part of the next steps in the drafting process.
The summer network meeting also saw FSE present a report on European away fan experiences in Spain over the past season. The organisation intends to expand its monitoring visits in Spain after a number of high-profile difficulties in recent months, while its away fans survey will be available in a number of additional languages next season.
A recurring theme throughout the weekend, of course, was the need for supporters to organise and drive the push for change collectively – putting their club colours to one side when needed for the benefit of all.
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