Thursday, March 22, 2007

Supporters Trust Movement To Roll Into Europe

As announced at the annual Supporters Trust conference and reported on here, UEFA are keen to help spread the Supporters Trust movement into Europe.

Supporters Direct in partnership with UEFA is launching a one-year feasibility study in a select number of European countries, with the objective of examining the potential expansion of the Supporters Trust movement across Europe. UEFA is funding the project and the job of project manager has already been advertised

The study is in accordance with a recommendation contained in the Independent European Sport Review "To examine the feasibility of a European Supporters Direct body" and will target a specifically defined set of countries on which the project will focus. Each country will have its own unique political, cultural and legal challenges to overcome in order to assess the potential for a Supporters Trust movement to take hold. A variety of club/supporter relationships exist throughout Europe, with fans having a considerable say in how clubs are run in some cases, and even owning their clubs in others.

The study will concentrate in the first stage on countries which already have an active supporter base. It will be monitored by both UEFA and Supporters Direct, and will run for an initial contract period of 12 months, based at the offices of Supporters Direct in central London. Research will be carried out into football structures (club and supporter ownership models, football administration), together with the social and cultural conditions of the game in each specific country.

"This is a huge opportunity for the development and expansion of the entire Trust movement," said Supporters Direct CEO Phillip French. "We are grateful to UEFA for helping to drive this project forward. It will be a fascinating challenge to see if a European Supporters Direct body has the potential to take hold and influence the structure of fans organisations across Europe. There will be huge logistical and cultural challenges to map out what can and can't be achieved. Thanks to this funding we can now press ahead with the recruitment of a dedicated individual, with the right experience, to project-manage the study over the coming months."

UEFA communications and public affairs director William Gaillard said: "In some European countries there are problems linked to the way fan groups are organised and their activities. Recent events in Italy have highlighted this. The Supporters Direct movement in the UK has proved that it is possible for the responsible fans - ie the vast majority - to organise themselves in a democratic way and engage in a responsible dialogue with their club. In some cases they have also saved their club from liquidation. It is therefore sensible to see whether the good example of the UK in this area - who experienced big problems of their own in the past - can be extended to the rest of Europe."

The end result will be a report recommending next steps for implementation in the countries analysed, as well as recommended next steps for countries which are not covered. The recommendations should highlight how a Supporters Direct/trust model may be created outside the UK in the specifically identified areas and for additional UEFA member countries.


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