Despite being one the most legendary clubs in Colombia, Millonarios FC are currently going through a competitive and sporting crisis that has derived in the detachment of supporters and minor shareholders from the club. With the aim of driving change, different supporter groups got together to set up Pundonor Embajador, the first organised supporter movement in Colombia with the support of FanVox.
Millonarios FC represent history, tradition and greatness in Colombian Football. Based in Bogotá, the country’s capital city, they are one of the few clubs in the world that employed a world star like Alfredo Di Stéfano in the 1950’s before he went to a so-called Real Madrid. They are also one of the two teams with more number of Championships in Colombia (14), and they could argue they defeated twice the mighty Real Madrid at the Spanish capital.
A dark phase
However, their recent story hasn’t been as successful as before. With only one Championship in the last 25 years, the club was summoned in a financial and competitive crisis during the early 2010’s. Due to mismanagement and with the intervention of the Colombian Government, a big percentage of the club’s shares went public and changed hands to new owners and minor shareholders – the fans.
It seemed like a good opportunity to revive the Club from both a financial and competitive perspective. At the beginning, the title of the Colombian League in 2012 brought back the greatness of the team. However, the Club’s major shareholders undertook a new manoeuvre outside the pitch by eluding the law and gaining full control of the Club.
Since then, the results on and off the pitch have been dramatically negative. Despite the major capital investment gained with the IPO, Millonarios is currently immersed in a tight financial position, which also explains their early elimination from the playoffs. The fans have constantly questioned the management of the Club but they haven’t received any formal response so far. Accountability shines for its inexistence.
This is a Club that generates a huge amount of passion amongst their fans, yet supporters did not have any say at all on how the club was run. Therefore, and inspired by the influential figure of Mario Vanemerak, a former player and coach from Argentina, various supporter branches got together with the idea of mobilising their passion and love for the club. They lacked of formal structure and were newcomers on setting up a movement. However, they agreed on the collective purpose.
Pundonor Embajador was born as a supporter-led response to save the Club and its legacy for all fans. As stated by Sebastián Mejía, one of the leaders: “We want to build a new Club, one that excludes the current management. We are getting support from former legends, TV personalities, businessmen, influencers, and of course fans who love this badge. More than 500 persons came to our first meeting; we had no idea what to do and it was very helpful that FanVox offered to assist us with a more structured approach and through the use of online tools”.
Thus, with the integrated support from different stakeholders, the approach consisted on creating 4 working groups (financials, competition, media and mobilisation, minor shareholders) to foster structured discussions with tangible results. FanVox also created a virtual discussion forum (in Spanish) that will be launched shortly.Figure 2 Spreading the Word
In line with the mobilisation efforts, two activities were planned: one silent march through key points of the city on November 21st and a protest outside the El Campín Stadium before their derby against Independiente Santa Fé on November 22nd. Both were useful for the purpose of creating awareness, but the hardest phase is yet to come: to orchestrate solid proposals towards the creation of a well organised movement that represents the voice of the fans and influences how the Club is run.
In FanVox we believe in the supporter movement and after connecting with its key stakeholders around the world, we are certain on the positive contribution of structured bottom-up proposals. We want to plant the seed of a better institutional framework for football in Colombia and leverage on New Power to achieve it. Two other big clubs in Colombia are going through a difficult phase, América de Cali and Cúcuta Deportivo, and we aim at contributing towards a better football through organised supporter initiatives.