The Roundtable discussion was organised in Dublin on the 23rd of February 2013, and drew together attendees from anti-racism NGO’s (Show Racism the Red Card Ireland), Supporter Liaison Officers from 12 National League clubs (Shelbourne F.C., Derry City, Bray Wanderers, Dundalk, University College Dublin AFC, Athlone Town, Bohemians F.C, Drogheda, Cork City F.C, Limerick F.C. Shamrock Rovers and Wexford Youth F.C.), FAI Supporter Liaison Coordinator, Garda (Police) representatives and a representative involved in an EU project on good governance. The pro supporters project Ireland coordinator provided an overview of the pro supporters project, while Kevin Miles from the football supporters federation in the UK touched on a range of relevant themes, including:
• The importance of communication- dialogue as a two way process
• Effective channels to allow two way communications with a need for a multi-agency approaches to address concerns with mutually positive outcomes for all parties
• Supporter led engagement events/initiatives and their role in emphasising the positives but also changing negative tones/reputations which can often be set by a minority.
• Be clear on what supporters can do with respect to violent behavior (roles and boundaries- Police will often need to deal with public order offences).
• Need for dialogue with supporters so actions by authorities, which can set the tone and impact supporters are designed and implemented with due regards to supporters views.
• Supporters part of the solution not just problem
This background helped to set the scene for a useful and interactive discussion on the Irish context, which touched on:
• Communication-reliable accurate information for fans (example of fans being held back after games and how no communication on the reason for this can lead to frustration- comment also on ‘holdback’ and its potential to provide an opportunity for people looking for confrontation- therefore a need to consider how this is communicated).
• Some views that violence is minimal and potentially opportunistic in the Irish context, while others underscored the need to be aware of the potential for organised forms of violence/anti social behaviour. On the whole the suggestion was that violence whatever its form, took place outside the stadium and not inside.
• Need for dialogue between supporters and a range of stakeholders so that supporter’s voice and opinions are heard and taken onboard, especially with respect to actions that effect supporters (e.g. pre-match meetings that cover policing measures/approaches/security). Supporters develop relationship with superintendant around policing approaches.
• Need for dialogue with media- supporter’s voice important to get this across especially when negative issues are being addressed in the media but also to cover positive engagement events run by supporters for supporters
• Need to address negative reputations often created by a minority but impacting the majority (engagement opportunity/events between supporters to emphasis the positive, retake reputation and address negative reputations- even if events are very small scale to beginning with).
• Forum to convey supporters voice, this could feed into multi-stakeholder meetings
• Supporter’s champions (Fan advocates) needed.
• The issue of intolerance as it refers to racism was not covered extensively and the general feeling seemed to be that Racism was not a major organised issue within the National League, though some previous incidents had received media profile
• Multi-stakeholder forum as a two way feedback/communication network/mechanism, allowing identified universal concerns to be fed back and addressed.