Fans of Irish football will gather in the Metropole Hotel, Cork on the 10th and 11th of November to hear why they have the vital role in turning round the fortunes of the Irish game for a conference entitled, ‘The Heart of the Game – Why Supporters are vital to Football’, the first event of its kind in Ireland.
The work has already started, with major changes in the last few years at Shamrock Rovers and more recently Bohemians, while a reformed, fan-owned Galway United is pressing for re-entry into the League next season.
Hosts FORAS – the supporters’ trust which owns and runs Cork City – has just overseen the club’s first season back in the top flight, and spokeswoman and Project Manager Niamh O’Mahony says the efforts of fans – backed by pan-European organisation Supporters Direct Europe – are now focusing on a nationwide effort to solve some of the long-term problems in Ireland.
“We’ve heard a lot about the problems in the League, and who is and is not to blame. For us, that debate has led us to the point where we’re all asking what part we – clubs, fans and supporters’ trusts – can play to fix them, and to do so collectively.”
The conference has been preceded by a national fans survey, which saw over 1,500 Irish football supporters respond to a range of questions, in what was proportionally the highest response rate across the eight countries involved in the project. The ‘Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership’ initiative is funded by the European Commission.
O’Mahony says that this is vital to the whole project: “The response to the survey is very, very promising. It has put paid to any idea that supporters aren’t motivated enough, and its results will provide us with real opinions, practical ideas about what is wrong and where the solutions might lie.
“We want to show that it is possible to have fans and clubs working in tandem – like they are already doing at so many clubs around the country – and we want to demonstrate that this can improve the game nationwide, not just on our own doorsteps.”
Amongst supporters and officials from, it is hoped, all Premier and First Division League of Ireland clubs, supporters’ trusts and fans’ organisations, the FAI and LOI will also be represented.
The event will welcome representatives from English clubs FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon – including its founding Chairman and Chief Executive Kris Stewart. Two groups taking part in the project from Sweden – where all clubs are owned by supporters – and Italy will also be present to provide a pan-European angle on proceedings.
Both Saturday and Sunday will see a series of workshops, focusing on community and supporter involvement at football clubs, and these sessions will be supplemented by a number of discussion panels, which will be free and open for all football supporters to attend. Stuart Dykes, who oversees UEFA’s Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO) project, will also offer his insight over the weekend.
Places at the workshop sessions are limited, so anyone interested in attending should contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Priority will be given to officials and supporters from League of Ireland clubs, though the event is open to all stakeholders in Irish football. Anyone wishing to attend the open discussions should RSVP their interest by emailing: email@example.com.
The ‘Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership’ project is being led in Ireland by FORAS, in partnership with Supporters Direct, and is funded by the European Commission. More details on the project are available here. The project’s logo is available by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE SCHEDULE – Metropole Hotel, Cork
*Updated November 5th*
13.00 – Welcome
(Introduction to the Project & its Objectives, Survey results, Housekeeping)
14.00 – 15.00: Workshop on Improving Governance (Limited Numbers)
15.30 – 16.30: Workshop on Increasing Community Ties (Limited Numbers)
*These sessions will be interactive in that while there will be experienced advocates involved, we will be looking for feedback, comment and discussion.
18.30 – 21.00: Public Event:
Fan Activism: A Case Study (Riccardo Bertolin, My Roma Supporters Trust)
Followed by: A discussion on the improving quality of the League and the growing number of ex-League of Ireland players in the National Squad with speakers including: Tommy Dunne, Damien Richardson, David Toms (School of History, UCC) and more TBC. Chaired by Emmet Malone (Irish Times).
11.00 – 12.00: Workshop on Fan Activism (Limited Numbers)
Why are League of Ireland fans so active – be it running their clubs, setting up Trusts, volunteering on Match Night? How can this be maintained?
12.30 – 13.30: Public Event:
Fan Activism across Europe and what the LOI can learn? A panel including Kevin Rye (Supporters Direct), Kris Stewart (AFC Wimbledon), Lena Wiberg (Swedish Football Supporters’ Union) and Phil Frampton (FC Utd of Manchester)
13.45 – 14.45: Public Event:
The Match Night experience & Marketing the League. A panel including Tim Murphy (CCFC), Stephen Ryan (Fota Wildlife Park), Siobhan Meehan, Stuart Dykes (SLO consultant) and John O’Brien (Sunday Independent)
15:00 – 16:00: Public Event:
Discussion on Supporters Charter for Irish football fans.
4.00 – 4.15: Closing Remarks