TONIGHT IN DUNDALK and on Saturday in Dublin, League of Ireland fans will have an opportunity to meet and discuss issues that affect both themselves and the clubs they support as part of the LOI Fans’ Forum.
Organised by a number of individuals involved in the Supporters’ Trust movement, assisted by Supporters Direct Europe, the meetings are part of an ongoing series of initiatives aimed at giving fans the opportunity to have their voice heard at all levels of the game in Ireland.
One of the meetings has already taken place in Galway (last week), and issues ranging from kick-off times to representation on the national council of the League were discussed.
Fan involvement is crucial if the League is to survive and flourish. After Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United and Cork City, Dundalk is the latest club to transition from private to fan-based ownership, with the Trust there acting in partnership with private investors to secure its future.
In the current economic climate (there’s a phrase we all love hearing), there are no financial white knights waiting to rescue clubs, meaning fan ownership is likely to be a matter of necessity in the coming years.
FORAS (the Trust which runs Cork City) are currently running a project on improving governance and community activism in fan-owned clubs and supporter organisations across Ireland. As part of that project, which is being run in partnership with Supporters Direct Europe, over 1,500 fans have taken a survey and given their views on Irish football, the results of which will be released in the coming weeks.
‘Inconsistent and frustrating experiences’
But it’s not just as owners that fans have requirements. Whether it’s kick-off times, facilities, stewarding or even just getting a pint and a burger at half-time, fans often have inconsistent and frustrating experiences at grounds, both home and away. Few businesses would treat their customers in the way many football clubs do and then be surprised when they go elsewhere.
As fans play multiple roles as investor, volunteer, employee, customer and promoter of their clubs, they need to have their voice respected by all stakeholders in the game – including the FAI, the clubs and local and national government.
Tonight’s meeting in Dundalk (8.30pm in Oriel Park) and Saturday’s in Dublin (2pm in the Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square) is about making that happen by assembling ideas for a supporters’ charter, a document outlining what supporters want, as well as discussing the future of fan representation in this country.
Our hope is that the meetings will give some strong outputs to the Fans’ Weekend in Cork on the 10th/11th of November. Organised in conjunction with the FORAS-led EC project on Football Governance, the weekend will look to provide an outlet for fans seeking to get involved in their clubs as well as discuss what has come out of the regional meetings.
There’s an old adage that when you’ve something to complain about, you’ve something to change. Right now fans have got plenty to complain about so we might as well look to get started on what we can change.
The LOI Fans’ Forum meetings are happening tonight (17 October) in Oriel Park, Dundalk at 8.30pm and on Saturday at 2pm in the Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, Dublin. The Fans’ Weekend will take place in Cork on the 10th/11th of November.