Date: 13th July 2015
ALL across Europe there are excellent examples of community ownership. This is not surprising given that fan ownership is a lot more prevalent around the world, especially on our continent.
In Germany, Spain and Sweden in particular fan engagement is a matter of course, with fans either owning at least 51% percent of their clubs or through fan membership which allows supporters to vote on vital club matters.
This increased fan engagement often leads to clubs striving for social change and improvement. This can be clearly seen through the work of Burgos CF of Spain and the newly-formed NK Zagreb 041 of Croatia, who both presented at this year’s European Football Fans Congress in Belfast.
Playing in the third tier of Spanish football, Burgos CF is a community run and community focused club, whose mantra ‘football is not just about football’ runs through every aspect of the side.
They believe that football has the power to bind society together, and run numerous community and social activities in order to increase social integration and cohesion.
Examples of this include a three-year campaign against Homophobia, which has seen strip elements designed to raise awareness of the issue like rainbow-coloured laces. They have also set up an Alzheimer’s support group, which aims to help both sufferers and relatives of those affected through the terrible illness.
They have also run Christmas toy collections, in which supporters bring toys to games which are passed on to children living in poverty in the city.
Meanwhile in Croatia, NK Zagreb 041 was formed less than a year ago in response to social and footballing issues which are troubling Croatian football.
On the footballing side, the team has been set up in response to the dictatorial approach and controversial running of their previous club, Dinamo Zagreb, by the Momic Family, whose homes were recently raided on suspicion of tax evasion and bribery.
They took over in 2006 and proceeded to change the clubs colours without consideration of the fans, as well as routing the staff. The new president Zdravko Mamic even employed his younger brother Zoran Mamic as coach.
The newly-formed NK Zagreb 041 now run a one member, one vote system in total opposition to the ownership structure now in place at Dinamo.
But while this was a big part in the forming of Zagreb 041, much like FC United of Manchester’s formation in the wake of the Glazer ownership of Manchester United, the main reason was a lot more socially significant.
Zagreb 041 was formed as a totally committed anti-facist club, against the very serious problem of racism which is still prevalent in Croatian society today and which has been evident since gaining independence in 1991.
Integration is their key ideology, which is clearly represented in their side which is formed largely from asylum seekers and refugees. Their coach is a former Nigerian professional who escaped to Croatia after he was attacked by terrorists in his own country.
In a bid to eradicate racism from their society, Zagreb 041 are trying to get primary schools in the local community involved, in order to try and normalise multi-culturalism and different races to Croatian children from a young age.
Their motto of ‘The game is for everyone and everyone’s equal’ surmises perfectly their dedication to improving the social condition of their city, and realising the importance of this over footballing success on the pitch and economic gains.
This desire is shared by Burgos CF, as well as other community clubs who presented at the European Football Fans Congress such as Crusaders FC, Newington FC and FC United of Manchester.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of community clubs are driven to improve the locality in which their fans live. There is an obvious reason for this; that the clubs owners are indeed fans living in these communities and experiencing the troubles which they are campaigning against and striving to improve.
It is also obvious from this that community clubs should be championed, and encouraged to form at every possible opportunity, be it at an existing club or at a newly formed side. The more community sides there are, the more social progress will be made.
And we should always remember Burgos CF motto; ‘Football is not just about football’.
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