Every month the Football Supporters' Federation features an affiliate or associate member to highlight good work carried out by fans - if you'd like to appear email firstname.lastname@example.org. This month it's the turn of Leicester City fans' group Union FS...
The FSF: Hello and congratulations on your promotion to the Premier League. So tell us a little about yourself, why the name Union FS?
Union FS: Picking a fairly original name was quite a tall order and the founding members took an incredible amount of time deliberating over it. As you might guess the FS is short-form for Filbert Street, but there are two reasons why we settled on the Union pre-fix. Firstly, when the Club moved to the now King Power, then Walkers Stadium in 2002, the fans who had previously stood together in Spion Kop pens 1 to 3 were dispersed across different blocks of the new ground. One of our aims is to 'Unite' those with the old Kop mentality from Filbert Street. Secondly, the Old Grand Union Canal runs adjacent to the new stadium. Local heritage should be important for all football fans and it is for this reason the perhaps conspicuous connection was made.
When and why were Union FS formed?
The group was formed in early autumn 2013. An idea was initially put forward by one member to form some sort of supporters group with the aim of improving the atmosphere at home games. He pitched it to a few more of us and we all agreed that it was something we would be keen to get involved in. Thus, it was a core of 8 of us who started up.
How did you first publicise the group?
We had all witnessed the way that previous supporters groups with similar aims to our own had struggled to get off the ground at Leicester in recent times. As a result, we decided to take a different approach. We started the e-fanzine Filbo Spirit to run in conjunction with the group allowing us to write articles about fan culture at Leicester and test the water to see if other supporters were receptive to what we had to say. The initial response to Filbo Spirit was extremely positive so we encouraged fellow supporters to get involved with the group, leading to our first meeting attended by 22 members just before the New Year.
What type of fan gets involved?
With our stated aim being to improve the atmosphere at home games, we are looking to appeal to those supporters that are prepared to back their team vocally for the full ninety minutes. We believe that the spread of singers across the ground since the club’s move away from Filbert Street has led to a dilution of the atmosphere at home games. We are keen to re-unite those fans who want to sing by encouraging them to come together in the same part of the stadium. So far, those who have contacted us looking to get involved all fit a similar mould. They are disillusioned with the lack of atmosphere at home games and the increasing apathy of fellow supporters in relation to this issue. They are looking for like-minded people to stand and sing with. We are hoping, as a group, that we can continue to attract these people and make a positive impact on the atmosphere at home games to the benefit of the supporters, the players and the club as a whole.
What activities are the group involved in?
It is still early days for us as far as organised activities are concerned. As mentioned earlier, we run our own e-fanzine based mainly around fan culture which we try to update with new material as frequently as possible. We support several campaigns including the FSF’s own Safe Standing and Twenty’s Plenty movements. We also keep a close eye on issues affecting football fans across the country and have expressed our support for fans of other clubs such as Hull City who are involved in a fight with their owner to keep their name. We are currently in dialogue with our own club, Leicester City, with a view to arranging a meeting to discuss the long-term plans for the group.
You've done quite a bit of work around safe standing, haven't you?
The Safe Standing campaign is something that we, as a group, fully support. We have been actively trying to garner support for the cause since our formation and have links to the FSF, Safe Standing Roadshow and StandUpSitDown forum on our website. We have written several articles on the topic, starting with 'Banging your head up against a brick wall', last December for which we received a lot of positive feedback.
Following the Football League's announced plans to consult its member clubs on the issue of Safe Standing, we published a further article entitled, 'Safe Standing, an opportunity to stand for progress' on 28th December 2013. This article encouraged Leicester City fans to make their views on the issue known to the Club by social media, email, post or even banners at the ground.
We held the group's inaugural General Meeting the following day where the issue was discussed in detail by the 22 members present. We were united in our belief that the Club should answer 'yes' to each of the four questions proposed during the Football League's consultation. We also agreed that we will attempt to persuade the Club to arrange for the Safe Standing Roadshow to come back to Leicester once we have secured a meeting with Club officials. Details of this can be found in the minutes from the meeting.
In mid-January we emailed the club with our own arguments in favour of Safe Standing. We also decided to publish a short article on our website entitled 'Safe Standing: Time running out to do something', which contained a template letter to the Club. The idea of this was that fellow supporters could download, amend and send this letter to the club expressing their views in favour of Safe Standing if they so wished. We circulated the letter on Leicester City online forums and social media sites while providing details of the consultation deadline set by the Football League and an email address for the Club's Supporter Liaison Officer.
We continue to follow the Safe Standing debate closely and comment regularly via Twitter and other social media.
What are your plans for the future?
In the short term we are encouraging vocal supporters to come together in a specific block of the King Power Stadium in an attempt to improve the match day atmosphere. We have a series of trial games planned which we hope, if successful, could help to permanently establish this block. If numbers continue to grow then we would like to look at improving the visual aspect of our match day support with the cooperation of the club. Further down the line we aim to organise trips to away games as a group, have regular meetings and vote on issues such as leadership of the group in order to give our members as much of a say on our activities as possible. Much of this is a still a long way off but if we keep up our early momentum, we believe it is all achievable.
Thanks for your time!