Sep 07, 2020
SEASON 2019/20: Trial & Triumph
The 19/20 season will live long in the memory as one dominated by a global foe which brought the football world grinding to an abrupt halt creating a great deal of uncertainty and damage.
Yet many member-run/fan-owned clubs and supporters organisations have experienced successes on and off the pitch this season which deserves to be recognised and celebrated, particularly given the challenging climate.
Football clubs and supporters organisations from across the continent demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their causes, their communities and of course to success in competition during the 19/20 season. Many of the campaigns and gestures carried out by member-run clubs and supporters groups were documented on the #FansVsCovid19 map.
This article focuses on the on- and off- pitch successes of clubs and local supporters organisations in SD Europe’s membership.
KSK Beveren achieved an amicable 6th place finish in the country’s Second Provincial League. Off the pitch, KSK Beveren warmly hosted SD Europe’s 2020 AGM, and became an official partner of SD Europe’s Fans Matter! project. Also during the season, Eskabee 1935 (YB SK Beveren’s supporters’ trust) paid in full the debt of KSK Beveren and merged with the latter, eventually merging and reviving the men’s team under the original KSK club.
After reforming in 2018 allowing increased supporter involvement in the decision-making process through ‘Pallieter Supporterscollectief’, K. Lyra-Lierse celebrated winning its league back in March.
Cypriot member-run club People’s Athletic Club (PAC) Omonia 1948 moved from strength to strength in the 2019/20 season. Not only did it see the club reach promotion to Cypriot 3rd Division after winning its league – its second promotion in two years -, the club has also started a project to build its own training facility. It is worth noting that despite benefitting from the decision to end the league prematurely and promote PAC, the club and its supporters criticised the Cyprus FA calling for all matches to be continued and promotion/relegation to be decided on the pitch.
Partly member-run Bohemians 1905 enjoyed a stable season holding a mid-table position for most of the season. Off the field, In july 2020, the Australian Embassy in Czechia visited Bohemians 1905 and the Bohemians Supporters Trust to symbolically collect the proceeds raised to contribute to Australia’s recovery from the 2019-20 bush fires. The football club has a history linked with Australia which is responsible for the kangaroo on its badge.
For Brøndby Fan Afdeling and Brøndby IF, the 19/20 season was one of challenge and success.
The Second half of 2019 started with a lot of social work in Brøndby IF’s community. The start of 2020 contrasted with the focus on the well being of the football club even before Covid-19 struck. The focus shifted from long-term planning to short-term survival. Together with the club and other fan groups Brøndby Fan Afdeling were involved in a variety of initiatives to help Brøndby IF, the club’s partners and the local community. With the support of Brøndby Fan Afdeling, the football club managed to raise significant funds because of the most sold jersey in the club’s history with around €34.000 in 6 weeks and raise funds for its amateur department.
England & Wales
Fan-owned AFC Wimbledon retained their EFL League One status whilst also edging closer to a return to the Wimbledon area, as its brand new stadium will be completed for the 20/21 season.
Whilst the football club men’s and women’s teams experienced modest seasons on the pitch, Lewes FC celebrated a significant milestone of 10 years of community-ownership in July 2020. SD Europe spoke to the club’s Chair Stuart Fuller and the FSA’s Richard Irving about the achievement.
After incorporating as a supporters trust in 2019, the Bangor City FC Supporters’ Association voted to set up their own fan-owned football club, CPD 1876 Bangor FC, ‘with a view to ensuring the continuity of competitive football of the highest possible standard in the city’.
In its inaugural season, CPD 1876 Bangor FC achieved promotion to the fourth tier of Welsh football.
Following the well-documented demise of Bury FC including its expulsion from the English Football League. A large section of the Bury FC supporters banded together to form a fan-owned football club for the town heralding the tradition of the original Bury club. Bury AFC’s application was accepted by the English FA and its place in Division 1 North of the North West Counties Football League for the 2020/21 season has been confirmed.
During the start of the 19/20 season, HFC Falke raised just over 50,000 HFC Falke finished the 19/20 season in 5th position in the league when it – after the COVID-19 shutdown from March to May – was finally called off in summer.
Republic of Ireland
Fan-owned Finn Harps, who compete in the League of Ireland Premier Division, launched an appeal to raise funds to make necessary improvements to its home stadium. So far, over €33,000 has been raised.
The 2019/20 season turned out to be another pivotal one in (formerly known) Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem FC’s history off the field. The club regained the rights to the name ‘Hapoel Jerusalem FC’, and in August 2020 the club’s name officially reverted back to the original club’s name.
Meanwhile on the pitch, the football club finished amicably in 3rd position in the regular season table in Liga Leumit (Isreaeli second division).
Irafans also have other sports in their membership besides football. Member run H. Haiffa were promoted to Israel’s top basketball league where it will join fellow member-run basketball club H. Tel Aviv.
Taranto FC endured a 6th place finish in Serie D after the league was stopped because of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the football club’s supporters trust, Taras 706 a.C., endured a busy season supporting its community. During Italy’s lockdown, the supporters trust launched two big solidarity campaigns; ‘Spesa Solidale’ and ‘Io Ti Proteggo’.Taras 706 a.C. changed its name in December 2019 (from Fondazione Taras 706 a.C.). Taras 706 also donated the rights to the emblem of Taranto FC back to the football club.
With the football season coming to an abrupt end also for fan-owned Cava United, the club secured promotion to the Prima Categoria, the seventh tier of Italian football, for the first time in its history.
With this promotion Cava United will join Ideali Bari Calcio, who finished mid-table in the Prima, as US Città di Fasano retained its Serie D status.
Following years of ongoing discussion with the club, ONS Groningen, the club’s umbrella supporters’ organisation, has successfully secured a seat on FC Groningen’s supervisory board. This was a major milestone, following the ‘golden share’ scheme adopted by the club with SD Europe’s support since 2015. What next for ONS Groningen? They hope to reach a point where the supporters control the majority of the club’s sharea.
At the start of the 2019 season, member-run club AKS Zły gained international recognition for its approach to football and work in the community in Warsaw by being awarded the UEFA Grassroots Club of the Year Award.
In January 2019, the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) agreed a deal with Kibble (a local charity) to be partners in a community buy-out of the club, which will give SMISA majority ownership. The motivation behind the move is to deliver community-ownership at St Mirren in half the time, at half the cost, and with greater community impact.
Partick Thistle owner Colin Weir, shortly before his death in late 2019, committed to transferring ownership of the club towards the fans. This was due to be completed earlier this summer, but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elsewhere, Motherwell became debt-free, repaying their final commitments to the club’s former owners. They also finished the season in third place, entering into Europa League qualification rounds, demonstrating that fan ownership can be a realistic goal for a club of any size in Scottish football.
The Foundation of Hearts have paid the final instalment of their loan payment to Heart of Midlothian Football Club owner Ann Budge, which will trigger the handover of her majority shareholding to the supporters group catalysing fan-ownership. Their fundraising campaign has raised more than £10 million over the last six years, and will enable this long transition from the clubs’ near collapse to be completed.
Foundation chairman Stuart Wallace and Ann Budge at the time of the handover of the Foundation’s final contribution to the Tynecastle Redevelopment Fund.
Finally from Scotland, Greenock Morton’s owners have agreed to sell the club to supporters group Morton Club Together (MCT) for a nominal sum, and write off the club’s debts. MCT will work alongside the current owners for the next 9 months while they learn the business of the club and fully understand its operations.
CAP Cuidad de Murcia endured a tough season on the field and were spared relegation after the suspension of the Tercera División (4th tier of Spanish football) because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Off the field though, through FASFE, CAP Cuidad de Murcia were confirmed to take part in a project supported by the SD Europe Fund aimed at ‘strengthening and widening Fútbol Popular’.
Meanwhile Unionistas de Salamanca CF did the Fútbol Popular movement proud as it battled into the Round of 32 of the Copa Del Rey eventually bowing out to giants Real Madrid whilst retaining its Segunda Division B status (3rd tier of Spanish football).