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Fans tell MEPS we are football!

Thu 25th Feb 2010 | Football Governance

Supporters Direct and fans’ groups across Europe on Tuesday received a big ‘thumbs up’ from Europe’s politicians at the first organised lobby of the European Parliament by football fans.

The reception was supported by the Parliament’s Friends of Football group of football-loving MEPs and by Europe’s governing body for football, UEFA.

Speaking at the event, the Chair of the Friends of Football Group, Ivo Belet said:

"Supporters are key stakeholders in football. In the European Parliament we are genuinely convinced that a properly structured involvement of supporters contributes to an improved governance and also to greater financial stability of clubs. That is of crucial importance, especially in these times, with clubs in financially turbulent waters as a result of the financial crisis and a result also of foreign ownership of the club."

The event was organised by Supporters Direct, the UK-based organisation that works with football fans to bring sustainability to clubs through community ownership, who have been developing their work in other countries over the last 3 years thanks to support from UEFA.

In that time, Supporters Direct have worked with supporters groups in 15 countries, and 11 of those were represented at the Parliamentary lobby.

They included groups looking to reconstitute Spanish clubs as members’ associations, and groups who successfully defended the system of supporter ownership in the Bundesliga.

MEPs heard from Andy Walsh, General manager of FC United of Manchester, the club formed by supporters disenfranchised by Manchester United following the takeover by the Glazer family. Outlining the club’s democratic and open character, he said:

“Professional football does not exist without supporters. Without them, there is no game.”

Reflecting on the event, Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of SD Europe said:

“The impact of the wider economic climate is being magnified in football due to the unaccountable way too many football clubs are run. The sense of fear and crisis is prompting many fans to address those fundamental problems and demand involvement in the clubs they support.

“It’s clear there’s a great deal of support for meaningful fan involvement in clubs from UEFA and from Europe’s politicians. The task now is to ensure that the European Union’s developing sports policy assists efforts of supporters to bring transparency, accountability and sustainability to clubs.”

Also addressing the meeting was UEFA’s William Gaillard, who welcomed the work of SD and increasing role of supporters, saying

“Supporters have always been part and parcel of professional football. Their loyalty to their clubs lies at the core of their personal identity, it is a lifelong commitment. At a time when the global crisis and the lack of financial discipline are threatening the very survival of many football clubs, SD offers a credible, sustainable alternative to the current model of club ownership and governance".


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