Representatives of founder members introduced themselves and explained that the purpose of the ISN is to encourage fan engagement and ownership at clubs, to share best practise between league clubs and also to offer help and support to any clubs or supporters groups that request it. Niamh O’Mahony, acting CEO of Supporters Direct Europe then introduced her organisation, explaining the history of the organisation, its work with UEFA and the EU and its widespread membership around European Football.
Gavan Duffy (GUFC) and Mike Derham (CCFC) then presented a section on sustainable finance at football clubs, noting that the importance of avoiding structural deficits and spotting the emergence of serious financial issues as early as possible through regular monitoring and planning.
Dinny Deady and Alan Coughlan, Supporter Liaison Officers at Cork City, then presented an overview of the SLO role at clubs, noting the importance of communication between board and fans as well as between club SLOs in improving the match night experience. Aidan McNelis (Finn Harps SLO) then spoke on how the role has been implemented at his club, noting the challenges the role presents and how Harps have expanded the role to also focus on including exiled fans in the match night through a partnership with Irish Start-up company Mobstats.
The survey revealed that most respondents are regular attendees at LOI games and also support an English or Scottish side, while only a quarter don’t support any club other than their LOI side. Work commitments are cited as the main influence on decisions to attend games and driving is the main mode of transport. In terms of how supporters began supporting their team the main reasons were locality, family and tradition with the vast majority attending games with family and/or friends. Most responses indicated LOI clubs are well linked into surrounding communities, while ticket prices were generally viewed as satisfactory with only very small number disagreeing. Facebook and Twitter were the main sources of information about clubs with a hardy few still remaining loyal to Aertel. The results indicate many fans would like to see clubs publish more information and host more forums and meetings, but generally the results are positive about communication to supporters with only a quarter unhappy. On match day, very few supporters (~10%) do not make purchase other than their ticket with most buying food or beverages within the ground and programmes also popular. Asked what single thing clubs should attempt to improve, the stand out results were a better atmosphere at 20%, clean facilities at 18% and better food and drink in the ground at 15%.