Supporter-led football across the continent was given a huge boost by UEFA and a group of MEPs recently after the first organised lobby of the European Parliament by football fans.
Leading figures in the industry spoke out in favour of greater supporter involvement with professional football clubs at the rally which was organised by Supporters Direct with support from UEFA as well as the Friends of Football, a group of football-loving MEPs,
Speaking at the event, the Chair of the Friends of Football Group, Ivo Belet, MEP for Flanders, 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."
MEPs heard from our very own General Manager, Andy Walsh, who told them: "Professional football does not exist without supporters. Without them, there is no game."??
UEFA’s William Gaillard welcomed the work of Supporters Direct 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, Supporters Direct offers a credible, sustainable alternative to the current model of club ownership and governance".
Reflecting on the event, Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, said: "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."??
Over the past three years, Supporters Direct has been working with supporters groups in 15 countries in a bid to raise the profile of the movement across Europe and UEFA has recently published its vision for the future of European football.
The document, entitled ’Vision Europe’, contains a number of encouraging statements such as, "In an ideal world football clubs would be legally structured and governed in ways that prioritise sporting objectives above financial aspects. Moreover, all clubs would be controlled and run by their members - e.g. supporters - according to democratic principles."??
The full document can be downloaded by clicking here