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Supporters In Campo: The Italian Group Fighting for “Football For The People”

In what is the sixth year of existence in Italy, SD Europe member, Supporters in Campo keep building on their story, while continuing to lobby for supporter ownership in Italy. 

In this SD Europe exclusive, we had an in-depth discussion with different figures in the movement to learn more about the ‘SinC’ story:  

When did your adventure start?

Supporters in Campo was established in April 2013 after a process of collaboration and dialogue with Italian fan groups and SD Europe. The experience gathered during the EU project ‘Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership‘ with SD Europe in 2012-2013 gave us the knowledge to take a step forward and establish the SinC network. 

The Supporters in Campo (SinC) collective was born from the cooperation between supporters groups that promote the sustainable ownership and management models for sporting clubs. 

The cooperation was aimed at developing the involvement of supporters in the decision-making processes and ownership of football clubs, therefore empowering and enhancing the positive contribution that fans and supporters represent in football.

How and why did Supporters in Campo come into existence?

It all started from the need to have an entity that would allow permanent supporter participation within Italian football clubs. With the help of SD Europe, during the project Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership, that very network came into place!

On the one hand, it was a response from the supporters who, after experiencing pain and agony with their club, now want to have a voice and control over the club management and avoid new dangers for their beloved team. About 150 professional clubs have been lost in the 15 years prior, it was time to give the fans the responsibility of these clubs.

On the other hand, it was a form of opposition to the mass commercialisation of football and its constant removal from the community. 

We believe to recover the social value, a new approach must be taken, establish a relationship between club and fanbase.

What is your role for Italian supporters?

The activities of SinC has developed into a form of dialogue and discussion with the official institutions, and with the main professional leagues of Italian football: Serie A, Lega Serie B, and Lega Pro. 

Activities range from the technical support of clubs, organisation and founding of new fan groups, promotion of individual groups, to the coordination of initiatives that actively implement projects. 

SinC is also involved in connecting fans with the various sports and administrative institutions. We have been involved in past collaborations with sporting federations, and will hopefully be for future projects as well. 

SinC council member, Stefano Pagnozzi, described activities in-depth:

“SinC is a young movement that still has a lot to learn. We help fan groups form, and we support them in all phases. The network is a meeting place to exchange experiences and learn from each others’ mistakes! We have developed a handbook that demonstrates our principles, while helping new fans organise themselves democratically to fight for a voice in their club.”

What kind of issues are facing Italian fans and clubs?

Italian football has many problems. The entire sector needs substantial reform and stricter rules to address certain needs. 

Resources are lacking, many of which are concentrated in Serie A between a few clubs. Equal opportunity mechanisms that benefit the entire system are missing. This leads us to the constant disappearance of a dozen clubs every summer.  

The economic crisis has certainly had a decisive influence on our sporting culture, specifically for small and medium-sized local businesses. These clubs are the most affected in the last 10 years by economic difficulties. 

In terms of participation, there are a few clubs that have managed to open up to their community. Usually, the fan is seen as a problem, not as a necessity to help grow and protect the club.

SinC Vice President, Pippo Russo, commented on the state of Italian football: 

“Italian football is going through a very troubled historical phase, the actions of the supporters often clash with different interests of club owners and against a disagreeing mentality of potential. Italian football needs decisive intervention encouraging transparency and sustainability. Without a concrete reform process, even the positive contribution of our organisations are at risk of being in vain.

What are some of Supporters in Campo achievements?

From the supporter perspective, SinC have helped create and structure different groups of local fans who are now an integral part of the network. Seeing that year-after-year growing awareness and desire to get involved is a positive sign for the future!

SinC have also improved relationships with the government institutions. The relationship has been generally positive, but now with the replacement at the top of the league, we intend to continue to raise awareness of our members, supporting the groups of fans involved in their club.  

In recent years, SinC members have achieved so much thus far, fundamentally influencing the running of their club. HSL Derthona, US City of Fasano, Ideale Bari Calcio, Cava United, Brutium Cosenza, Vigor 1919 and Centro Storico Lebowski are controlled by their fans, and have recently been joined by L’Aquila Calcio this summer.

Several Italian Supporters’ Trusts have minority stakes in their clubs: Fondazione Taras, Associazione Polisportiva “Perbrindisi”, Barletta Club “I Biancorossi”, MyRoma, Orgoglio Amaranto, and Lucca United. 

Other clubs have a model of external control, and support clubs such as: Cosenza nel Cuore, Passione Lecce, Modena Sport Club, Fondazione SEF Torres, Cagliari Club, Nocerini, Amici del Rimini, Noi Samb, Associazione “Tifosi per il Brescia”, Solo per l’Ascoli e Verona nel Cuore.

What is the current relationship between fans, institutions and the football league?

Most supporters do not have high expectations from the leagues. Historically speaking, there is not much of a relationship between the parties. The relationship between fans and institutions in Germany and Sweden are seen as a great inspiration for Italy. 

Italian football is a continuous work in progress, over the last few months, there has been talks of supporters’ participation in parliament. Our hope is that we can also create an open dialogue with fans bringing to attention the achievements of our members. 

SinC President, Diego Riva, commented on the importance of structural dialogue with national associations:

“The dialogue with the federations is important to shed light on the issues concerning active fan participation. The open dialogue with the fans point of view can be constructive for all parties.

Supporters can make a big contribution to revive the fortunes of Italian football, especially for small and medium sized clubs. The cooperation with the leagues can allow good practices to spread throughout our territory, promoting the principles of democracy, participation, sustainability and social commitment.”

What kind of activities are you carrying out? 

Primarily, we play an active role in supporting the network built by SinC over the years. We advise supporters when necessary, allowing them to organise themselves in a way regulated by democratic, inclusive, and transparent structures. Within our initial years of activity, we created a handbook setting up and managing fan associations.

Among our activities, is the constant lobbying for dialogue and transparency with all the stakeholders in the world of football. The aim is to raise awareness of the need for the development and support of fan owned clubs and network associations.

Finally, SinC is a meeting point to discuss ideas and proposals to improve on-the-ground activities and implement shared projects, both nationally and at European level.

SinC board member, Luca Frontera added: “SinC’s work has had excellent results, considering the youthfulness of the movement. There have been many cases where fans have played a key role in the survival or rebirth of their own club. It is essential to develop a shared path of cultural growth with all the stakeholders involved to continue forming good practices.” 

SinC plans and projects for the future?

We will continue assisting members, while growing our network to involve as many groups as possible. There are about 40 associations, cooperatives, and committees made up in Italy, and 20 officially involved with Supporters in Campo. Expanding the network also means having more strength to build the culture you need to succeed.

Additionally, we hope for the dialogue and cooperation with football and governmental institutions to continue and intensify. 

SinC board member, Michele Palmiero talked about the possibilities of the network: 

“The network is always open to new groups and contributions, there is a lot of work to do and new ideas can facilitate and encourage that. Our work will focus on supporting those fans who want to take a step forward by taking on the responsibility of actively influencing their football clubs.

We want to continue our growth and increase the positive impact on our members by acquiring new knowledge from our European partners. Future projects with SD Europe will be an excellent opportunity to grow our capabilities further.”

What about the SD Europe network appealed to you? What do SinC offer the network?

The SD Europe network is where ideas and inspiration for the entire network of Italian clubs can develop. The relationship with the EU partners is very important for us. This gives us many new ideas and the chance to establish relationships across Europe.

During the EU project, Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football, we met clubs like FC United of Manchester and Schalke and got to know national fans organisations such as the Irish Supporters Network, FASFE and SFSU.

The Italian movement is among the youngest and most inexperienced in Europe, it has a lot to learn but with exchanges between different countries, we have learned so much and are building everyday. Each story shared in the network allows us to learn something new  to ensure that the participation of fans can become indispensable for clubs. Every new experience we have due to the SD Europe network allows us to take a step forward.

SinC has direct experience in organising and operating in an environment that is not so open to the inclusion of fans. Our situation is common to many other countries that are approaching the idea of ​​’active participation’ and we could help support each other and exchange stories!

SinC board member, Fabio Guarini discussed the influence of the network: “The SD Europe network has contributed to the development of SinC as a whole. The knowledge of distant realities, is a constant source of inspiration. Learning about the various methods, ideas, and experiences gives motivation and energy to continue in our activities. Continuous dialogue is really essential to facing the challenges we have in common.”

Does your league promote he Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) role?

In the past, we have been able to follow successful implementation in the professional divisions of Italian football. Proper SLO implementation is limited to a few clubs. The problem is at the moment there is a lack of adequate investment from clubs and leagues supporting SLO work. 

As part of SinC’s activities, several of our members were able to implement SLO’s at their club, successfully establishing a good line of contact between the club and supporters. 

What benefits does the SLO role bring you?

Effective SLO work has created a effective relationship between clubs and supporters.

For example, excessive use of police is a huge expense to incur every week. With SLO work there will be increased involvement of supporters in matchday organisation. This will allow clubs and fans to make the experience more enjoyable by preventing problems before, during, and after the match, thus encouraging greater safety and participation of fans in matches. 

What is the message you want to send to fans across Europe?

We believe it is time for fans to understand the importance we have in sports. Within football, we need to further our knowledge of being involved in our own clubs. It is our right and duty, for the communities. 

What’s your message to our network?

Learn from the mistakes made and what got you to where you are today! Never give up on discovering something more, looking for concepts and knowledge that can make your idea of ​​a ‘different’ football grow. It’s tough, but it’s our football!

Get in touch with the SD Europe team via our Contact Us page. Read all the latest news about LIAISE here. Follow SD Europe on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more updates!  

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