Almost three years after having been kicked off in Angers, the FREE Project has been successfully concluded on 17 March 2015 by its final conference in Brussels. The public event, which was hosted by the Committee of the Regions, brought together researchers, policy-makers and civil society in order to present and discuss findings from the research carried out over the last three years in numerous sub-projects and punctuated by academic events in eight different European cities. In his welcome speech, Philippe Keraurden, who is in charge of the social sciences and humanities within the Directorate General Research of the European Commission, congratulated the project once more for having imposed, by the sheer quality of its overall design and the relevance of its research objectives, a seemingly peripheral topic on the agenda of the 7th European Framework Programme. He also urged the consortium not to simply move on to other tasks, but focus on exploiting the very promising data accumulated over the last three years and to pursue its dissemination strategy.
The project’s finding were discussed in three different roundtables composed of external experts and stakeholders of European football. Each of these high-level debates was preceded by a short presentation by one of the FREE researchers, and each one was followed by a lively discussion with the audience.The event was wrapped up at the end of the afternoon by an exchange between Jonathan Hill, head of cabinet of Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, Simon Kuper, from the Financial Times, and Albrecht Sonntag, the coordinator of FREE. The feedback on this compact and rather intensive day was overwhelmingly positive – a detailed conference report will soon be available online on the project website. As pointed out in the most recent issue of the FREE newsletter, the official end of the funding period is far from being the final whistle under a project that has only just started to making its findings available to the academic community and the wider public. A significant number of various publications is under way and will keep the consortium busy for the months and years to come.
During the final general assembly of the project, which was scheduled on Wednesday 18 March, the team of twenty researchers from the nine European universities that made up the consortium, had the opportunity to visit the exhibition “Whose Game Is It?”, based on the field work carried out with supporters across Europe and currently on show in the heart of the emblematic Berlaymont building of the European Commission. A very fitting place to conclude a project that was profoundly European in scope and character.