On May 31st Socios Gornik, a supporters’ organisation at Gornik Zabrze, organised the “New Way of Supporting” international conference in Katowice.
Some 100 attendees travelled from across Poland to participate in the conference, and included supporters of various clubs, club representatives, journalists, politicians and business figures. They were treated to presentations and speeches from Poland and abroad, covering many key issues relating to sport, as politicians, academics, supporters and various experts analysed the social and financial functions and impact of football.
The event kicked off with an intervention from MEP Bogdan Wenta who despite not being able to attend in person, sent a video message emphasising his support for the work of Socios Gornik, as well as all democratic and forward-thinking sports stakeholders. In his video, Mr Wenta said “Sport is not just a form of entertainment but also a powerful market, that needs to be transparent and regulated to guarantee fair conditions for players, clubs, stakeholders and, of course, supporters” and continued “Sport also has an important social value and an example of this are the supporters’ organisations. The value supporters bring in sport is beyond question; in the sporting outcome of the match, but also -directly and indirectly- in the financial performance of the club. Sport should connect people, stir them to action and motivate them for cooperative projects. The ‘social model’ brings a feeling of responsibility that teaches people, to care for the common good and motivates them towards social engagement” and concluded “No matter what the operational structure of the club, it is important not to forget about the social impact, as a club’s environment expands further from its staff, players and sponsors; there is a big list of sports stakeholders which includes, of course, supporters, as the club’s performance influences the local, regional and even national social and financial issues”.
This was followed by presentations from Jack Burski (University of Lodz), who focused on the relationship between supporters and the management/ownership of the club and Dr. Artur Grabowski (Katowice University of Economy), who focused on the German 50%+1 model. He highlighted the importance it has not just in facilitating the financial success of clubs, but also in the preservation of their identities and cultural value. The first part was concluded by Loukas Anastasiadis (SD Europe) who argued that supporter involvement and active participation contribute to the overall mission of a club and help improve its operations. He also suggested that unlike some other stakeholders, supporters are equally if not more interested in the long-term sustainability of the club than its short-term success.
In the second part of the conference, the community movement of Za Celik (NK Celik Zenica), Swansea City Supporters Trust and Sosteniamolancona (the democratic supporters’ organisation that owns U.S. Ancona 1905) presented their stories as case studies to provide inspiration and ideas to Polish supporters as well as solid arguments for the recognition of supporters as key stakeholders. The floor was then given over to Adam Horodecki who, on behalf of the conference’s main sponsor (Nowy Styl Group, manufacturer of stadia seating) discussed the cooperation that exists between the business and sport world.
The conference was concluded by Grzegorz Pacula, spokesperson for Socios Gornik. Grzegorz referred to the principles and goals of Socios Gornik emphasising the importance of transparency in the functioning of the club. The groups firmly believes that the opinion of every supporter matters, and every supporter of Gornik Zabrze should have the right to help decide the club’s future It is also very important to Socios Gornik that the club’s resources are septn in a sensible way, especially as ultimately these resources are provided by supporters and taxpayers. Grzegorz also recalled some of Socios Gornik’s actions from last season, such as the purchase of equipment for the youth team, billboard advertisements to support the club and assistance for the disabled supporters’ club.
The overall conclusion from the event was that Polish clubs, including Gornik Zabrze, should treat their supporters with respect and as serious partners, thereby allowing them to offer greater support in a variety of ways.
The conference was sponsored by Nowy Styl Group and Allianz and supported by the Major and Board of the Silesia Region as well as the Silesian Stadium. The official media channels of the event were Dziennik zachodni, 2×45.info and roosevelta81.pl. Anna Tomszyk, Marketing and PR Specialist at Nowy Styl Group, said about the support to the event: “Forum Seating (one of the Nowy Styl Group’s brands) supplies chairs for small, local stadiums and huge sports facilities with a capacity of 60,000 and more. We do care about the comfort of football fans, but we would also like to stress how important the good atmosphere during sporting events is to us. That was the reason for supporting the Socios Gornic initiative”.
About Socios Gornik
Established in 2014, Socios Gornik is a supporters’ organisation at Polish club Gornik Zabrze. Representing more than 1,200 families and business partners of the local and wider Silesian community, Socios Gornik campaign for increased democracy, greater transparency and better decision making at their club. They are recognised as a responsible stakeholder by football, political and business figures, and hope in the future to play a key role in the regeneration and revitalisation of their beloved club – as supporters, it is their duty to do so!
About SD Europe
SD Europe is an organisation that assists democratic supporters’ groups in achieving formal structured involvement in their clubs and associations, and developing member ownership of football clubs. Established in 2007 with support from UEFA, SD Europe also advises clubs on their ownership and governance structure and works with football governing bodies, leagues, UEFA, and European institutions. Currently, it is active in over 20 European countries and is responsible for the implementation of the Supporter Liaison Officer requirement (Art. 35, UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations). For more information, contact us.