Shining example of Fan participation in Italy

I heard about this fan group a few months ago and along with many other fan groups across Italy and Europe they are starting to show that football fans can and need to get involved – partly inspired by FC United…. here is there story………………..Lucca United

Q & A with Stefano Galligani of Lucca United -Supporters Trust  of AS LUCCHESE LIBERTAS1905

Q. Can you tell us in England how Lucca United came about and it’s relationship with AS LUCCHESE LIBERTAS 1905

A. Unfortunately our club was demoted twice from League 1 for financial problems and irregularities, first time in 2008 and again in 2011 when  we had just regained League 1 after two promotions in a row. In 2011 the club had to restart from the 6th tier of Italian football and we decided that we   had to play a more active role  and needed to have our word in the matter.  We founded our cooperative in November 2011 and we currently have some 400 members.

Q. FC Lucca had some good times in the 1990’s in the second tier of Italian football-what are your favourite memories of those times.

A. Not an easy question to answer as we had some great moments during those years.  Maybe playing  Fiorentina at home in the 1993/94 season ( 1-1 with Lucchese top player Roberto Paci equalising at the very last minute , Fiorentina had a certain Gabriel Batistuta on the pitch..) Great atmosphere and the match  was sold out. Another day  to remember was Inter Milan away for the Coppa Italia that  same season. It was a midweek game and Lucchese took over 1000 fans to San Siro.

Also we played in the Anglo Italian Cup in  1992 and I remember watching Newcastle at home  with Kevin Keegan as  their manager.

We also played Porstmouth away  and half a dozen fans made the trip to Fratton Park . Low cost airlines were still a long way to come…

Q. Currently you play at a similar level as FC United play with approx 1,000 fans – this must be difficult -but at FC we often it is not the quantity of the fans but the quality-what plans do your owners have to improve the club

A. We now play in the 5th tier of Italian football , equivalent to your National Conference. Only one step from professional football. It is difficult to keep fans motivated  and attendance has now sadly dropped to some 700/800 despite having good chances to gain promotion this season. Just the die hard these days.

In my opinion there are two main reasons for that : people are disillusioned after what the club went through between 2008-2011 and ( even worse ) the current owners have failed to open real discussions with Lucca United about having at least one representative in the Board of Directors. We feel this is a short sighted view and strongly claim  that fans should be able to play a more active, though responsable role within the club

Q. Do you think that the supporters group Lucca United can gradually play a more active role in running the club.

A. I have answered this question already , this is our goal but I am not too optimistic just now. As for our cooperative we have achieved a lot during these first two years, we own the club’s logo and denomination ( and this  has enabled the club to regain its original name from this season ) ; we have just opened a museum inside the football ground that covers the 108 years of the club history. All this was achieved and made up  by Lucca United and its members alone, on a volunteer base  and with no help from the club. Unfortunately we seem to speak two different languages at the moment..

Q. You came to FC United in 2011 to meet with Andy Walsh and others -can you tell us a little more about the trip and what you thought about our club.

A. We could write a book to tell you about our feelings and experience that day ! I first learned about FCUM when reading what I consider a great book on how Premier League football has become a money making machine and how football has now lost its soul. The book I mean is “Theatre of Silence” by Matthew Bazell who has also been to Lucca last year to tell us about his view on English football and modern football generally. May I say it was like an epiphany for me and I decided I had  to make a trip to Bury to learn more and take inspiration. So me and my good friend Roberto Ambrogi came along and we took a video and spoke to a number of people from the club. We must thank Helen LAMBERT  for all the help and assistance. We had a long chat with her before kick off and that enabled us to learn more about FCUM and its philosophy.

We got over excited as the match went on as the constant singing, the fans standing as they pleased, the numerous children and families, the general atmosphere was overwhelming and that is how any foootball ground should be like. We soon forgot we were attending a non league match and were so emotionally involved that we joined in the singing..the game itself ( against Nortwich Victoria ) provided several emotions ..

I had attended an Everton game back in 2006 ( vs Manchester City ) and despite the stadium being full , the atmosphere was almost depressing with everyone sitting down and very little singing.  I believe that is not the football most fans want. Our day was made glorious by bumping into a dozen fans from Cap Ciudad de Murcia who had come to Bury that weekend to learn more about FCUM which they were taking as a model for starting their own club.  We have kept in touch with them since then and we are pleased with what they have achieved so far.

Q. Italian football like many across Europe faces many challenges with much of the money and media attention going only to the main 4-6 clubs -is there any way you can see this changing.

A. Italian football is quite depressing these days as it all focuses around a limited number of clubs as you say. Pay tv is also keeping fans away from the stadiums.

However  fans are more and more annoyed with the bad state of  our football  and several supporters  trusts have been formed. Especially those clubs that experienced bankrupcy and had to restart from the non league are now more aware  that a different football is not only possible but necessary. Currently we have supporters trusts playing  an active role within their club in places like Ancona, Arezzo, Taranto, Sambenedetto, Modena, to name only a few.

It is a start and it is quite encouraging. In April this year “Supportes in Campo” was founded as the italian association of most supporters trusts. We meet on regular occasions and have started talking to the football institutions on a number of issues.

I can see this movement growing up and achieve more and more credibility within Italian football and fans.

Q. Is it likely we will see a wholy fan owned club in Italy in the near future -is there ademand for this from the tifosi

A. Honestly I can’t see this happening in the short term. I do hope Lucca United will achieve this goal one day anyway ! The more we look at the state of Italian football ( also in the low tiers ) the more we believe this is the only way to save our clubs and give full  dignity  to the fans.

Q. You already have good links with fan groups across Italy -is this something you would like to see expanded across Europe even more.

A. We are certainly  willing to learn more about any other experience around Europe. The internet is  providing a lot of information and dedicated websites are a constant tool for being updated and keeping in touch. At Lucca United we are planning to organise a meeting  in the future with representatives from several european Supporters trusts  to share our mutual experiences.

Thank you  Thank you Richard and..come on United !

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About rick

Living in Poynton, close to Manchester, Rick is a co-founder of FC United of Manchester. He works at the Main Stand Bar at almost every home game and if you see him in the stand you'll hear him scream as loud as anyone. Rick has also been involved in greeting international visitors and hosting several pub crawls and dinners for FC United-fans from all over the world, making a lots of friends in the process.

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