Fan power in soccer

In the days of multi billionaire ownership of clubs from Chelsea and Man City to Paris St Germain, it is both strange and encouraging to find the idea of mass public ownership of other clubs still strong.

Barcelona is the classic example of a club that is owned by the supporters, in whose name and interest key decisions are taken.

Closer to home, and at a lower level of competition, Ireland is also seen as a centre for how the dedication and mass investment at a micro level can be used to fund and in cases save a football club that is central to many fans sense of identity and local pride.

Shamrock Rovers and Cork City have both previously been in the ownership of individuals with bright ambition that failed for one reason or another.  Both could have gone out of business and disappeared leaving only fond memories but both were saved by ‘the will of the common people.

A project is now under way with funding from the European Commission to gather the experience of Irish and other fans in how this club rescue was undertaken and what lessons can be applied elsewhere throughout the League of Ireland and further afield.

The project is being managed by Niamh O’Mahoney, one of the owners of her own club Cork City.

“Our objective is for our clubs to play in a competitive League, where they are run with a view to that league growing stronger year by year.”

Those who have been involved in the management of clubs have a broad range of experience which many would never have imagined themselves likely to have had or needed.”

“We have undertaken a survey of fans which has yielded more than 1500 responses and will now form the basis of a fans forum to be held over the weekend of 10th and 11th November.”

The project is receiving guidance from Supporters Direct, a British based organisation that also seeks to help fans of clubs across a number of different sports to find an effective voice.

For many such activism is seen as well meaning but of little real impact.  The evidence is that it is worth more than that.  Not every fan will be able to play a part every day or every month but the sense of ownership in a literal as well as an emotional form can be powerful when it is most needed.

There is a recognition within the FAI of the influence a grassroots fan base can have and meetings have already taken place between the group and officials from the association.

“We were briefed on the implementation of the project and will attend the fans workshop in November,” said Club Licensing Manager Regina Coppinger.

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