When the Swedish Football Supporters’ Union (SFSU) had their annual meeting weekend, it was with Swedish Professional Football Leagues outgoing CEO Mats Enquist as an invited guest.
“We wanted to thank Mats. It is not only a matter of good cooperation, but there has also been openness, honesty and a great mutual trust with Mats. Without that, the cooperation between the supporters and Swedish football would not have worked. It is very valuable for us”, says Sofia Bohlin, former chairman of SFSU, who worked a lot with Mats Enquist.
Swedish Professional Football Leagues was early on in establishing a relationship with the football fans and recognizing the fans as a vital part of football, while also letting the fans into the conversations surrounding Swedish elite football. In Sweden, the fans often creates an atmosphere of absolute world-class.
“We were early on in Sweden talking about football fans as an important partner and as a vital part of the football family. We have stood up for them for a long time, and also received an enormous amount of positive feedback for it. Clearly, it is a choice of path we are very satisfied and proud of. We believe that long-term work together with our fans is absolutely the right way to go in order to have even safer, more secure and more atmospheric arrangements”, says Mats Enquist, general secretary of Swedish Professional Football Leagues.
The former chairman of SFSU Sofia Bohlin says that the collaboration with Swedish Professional Football Leagues means a lot to SFSU and that the collaboration would not have been as strong and could not have developed without it being as high as it was in the dialogue with Mats Enquist.
“During my role as chairman for six years, it has been fantastic to work with Mats, with the dialogue and openness that it brought. The cooperation between us made it possible to prevent bumps but also quickly identify situations and develop collaborations and opportunities. I am most satisfied with Mats’s responsiveness and willingness to create something together”, says Sofia Bohlin.
“I mean he found projects and included the fans, he was doing something. It wasn’t just empty words. SEF has supported us in what we think is important, for example how to design away sections in the stadiums. We were purposeful and looked for solutions together. Before 2019, the clubs planned to invest even more deeply in member engagement. We brought out areas of work, which were unfortunately stopped by the pandemic, but which may be able to be resumed now. What we have done is not just to talk nicely, but we have been able to concretely deliver projects and measures together.”
Swedish Professional Football Leagues and SFSU have learned from each other many times, but internationally, the parties have jointly been a good example of how well it works in Sweden and thus become an example throughout Europe.
For many years Sweden and its incredibly active supporter scene have been of interest to fans across Europe. SFSU and their fight to protect and enhance the 50+1 model in Sweden is something that FSE, and previously Supporters Direct Europe, spoke of regularly and we highlight even now. It’s an excellent example of what supporters – when they come together, organise and stand up for the long-term health of the game – can achieve, with benefits for all stakeholders and not only the fans directly involved”, says Niamh O’Mahony from the Footballsupporters Europe network.
As Europe’s representative organisation for supporters, we have always spoken of the importance of giving fans a meaningful voice and advocate that having organised groups in the room when there are discussions on topics that impact how they experience football – from match day to involvement within club structures – leads to better decisions. With any movement, the key influencers are often those first one or two leaders that recognise the change and support it when the majority of people are still a little unsure. And that’s what Mats did for supporters at a European level – he was amongst the first football officials to speak the importance of good relations with supporters, sharing the progress that had been slowly, but surely made in Swedish football”, says Niamh.
Furthermore, Niham says that it was always clear that Mats believed that involving the supporters was the right thing to do, but that he also did the job of showing how much the Allsvenskan benefited by cooperating with the supporters.
“The relationship and agreement between SEF and SFSU is something we highlight as good practice, and is an inspiration for the Erasmus+ project, Kick Off – where Swedish representatives are involved in an advisory capacity. The FSE team was sad to hear the news that Mats is moving on but we also send him our very best wishes and want to acknowledge and thank him for the support he has shown supporters and both FSE and, previously, SD Europe. It made all the difference at crucial times in our work”, says Niamh.
In 2019, Swedish Professional Football Leagues and SFSU took the next step in the relationship by jointly announcing that together they would try to create the best supporter collaboration in Europe. Something that was temporarily stopped by the pandemic, but which it is now time to restart. The focus will be on experience, commitment and further developing the SLO role.
Mats Enquist is stepping down from his role as general secretary of Swedish Professional Football Leagues in connection with the organization’s annual meeting in March.
“We are very happy and grateful for Mats’s efforts for the Swedish football movement and not least for the dialogue, collaboration and openness towards, and above all WITH, us supporters. Being able to discuss without prejudice, great trust and mutual respect to solve issues together and move football forward is truly a legacy that Mats leaves behind. We are convinced that it will continue to permeate Swedish elite football going forward. We want to say a big thank you to Mats and wish him the best of luck in “retired life”!”, says Isak Edén, the current chairman of SFSU.