Once a fan, always a fan
Swedish club AIK did something different before their Swedish league match against Gefle. They had elderly fans lead them out20 September 2016 | FT Editor
86-year-old Lennart Johansson is perhaps best known for being the longest serving President of UEFA. During his reign in the top job in Europe, he introduced the UEFA Champions League and in 1998 unsuccessfully challenged Sepp Blatter to the FIFA Presidency. He has been a regular critic of Blatter’s time at the top.
However, long before Johansson became a football administrator, he was a member of Stockholm-based sports club AIK. Johansson joined the Bandy team, but it is best known for its first division football team that has won the Allsvenskan element times and appeared in the UEFA Europa League.
But supporting your team never leaves you.
So in a switch of the usual footballers-lead-out-children at the beginning of a match, AIK reached out to its elderly fans ahead of their match last weekend against Gefle FC.
The home crowd was pleasantly surprised when longstanding loyal fans and former club members aged between 82 and 96 stepped out onto the football pitch with the players.
Led by Johansson, they were greeted with a raucous standing ovation from the crowd.
It’s lovely stuff – and in stark contrast to the usual template pre-match events that are familiar to domestic league competitions around the world.
It is also an important demographic. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the proportion of Australians aged 65 will be almost one-in-five of the population by 2021 and one-in-four (25%) by 2051. The proportion aged 85 is expected to increase to almost 5% by 2015 from its current level of just under 2%.
“There are a lot of us who have lived with AIK all of our lives but who can’t, for various reasons, get to the stadium these days,” Johansson told The Guardian.
“That doesn’t mean that we care less about the club. Maybe just that we have a little bit more difficulty traveling and moving around.”
For the club, it was part of their campaign to attract a ‘lost’ generation of supporters, promote discounted tickets, a retro style event with a marching band and free shuttle buses from retirement homes.
AIK Chairman Mikael Ahlerup added: “Our family section has for a long time been the biggest in Sweden and it is very important for us to get children and teenagers to the club but we can never forget about the generation that made this club to what it is. That’s why this initiative felt like an obvious thing to do.
“A family should consist of both young and old and today we completed our family by inviting and celebrating the elders. I’m proud to be a part of such an inclusive club.”
AIK defeated Gelfe 1-0 on the night.
Well played AIK.
fan engagement, lennart johansson, aik stockholm, uefa europa league