So, whose game is it? Presenting the FREE Project conclusions on football governance and supporters activism

A seminar as part of the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre Public Seminar Series

Roberts Building, University College London (UCL)UCL-Roberts-Small
Room G08 Sir David Davies Lecture Theatre
Torrington Place
London WC1E 7JE

Monday 19th January 2015 at 6pm

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Concerns over the current state of football governance in Europe have reached an all-time high. In the UK, there have been parliamentary calls for action to improve the sport and the government recently set up an expert group on supporter ownership and wider fan engagement. Calls for further supporter ownership and a stronger link between football fans and their clubs are gathering pace and one cannot rule out legislation in this respect following the next general election. However questions as to what this supporter engagement might look like (if indeed it is something that the fans want and are prepared to invest in) are only starting to be asked in depth. The FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) Project has been researching since September 2012 the extent to which supporters are willing to get involved in the governance and ownership of their clubs. In this seminar the authors introduce to the public the first comprehensive results of the FREE Project research on football governance by presenting the upcoming FREE Project papers on football governance.

The FREE project

The FREE Project is a pan-European project that has investigated football support from different perspectives and from within different disciplines. The policy papers on governance combine data gathered from supporters across Europe in three different ways:

  • A CATI telephone survey (sample size: 7,245) of the general public in 9 European countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey, UK)
  • An online survey (sample size: 11,384) of football fans in 6 European countries (France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Turkey, UK)
  • An in-depth qualitative study (sample size: 65) in 5 European countries (Austria, Poland, Spain, Turkey, UK)

The main conclusion of the FREE Project’s research on governance and supporter activism, which will be elaborated in the policy papers, can be summarised as follows:

  • Supporters demand more regulation of the football sector by the authorities
  • There is a growing malaise at the excessive commercialisation of European football, and specially English football, that risks alienating the supporters
  • Football clubs need to find ways to proactively engage their supporters or they risk losing them
  • Supporter involvement and ownership are positively looked at, but more flexible and inclusive structures are needed to appeal to a wider constituency of supporters


Dr Borja García is a lecturer in sport policy and management at Loughborough University. He is an specialist in EU sport policy and football governance. He is one of the principal investigators of the FREE Project
Dr Garcia on Twitter @DrBorjaGarcia

Dr Jo Welford is a Research Associate in the FREE Project at Loughborough University
Dr Welford on Twitter @jwelf

Contact Details

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil

Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

Twitter: @Birkbecksport


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