Siirtola: "Non-profit work within associations is the best thing a person can do for society today"

Skutskär's zealot Johannes Siirtola on priorities, the fear of letting the resort down and the cure for cold fingers.

Who are you?
- My name is Johannes Siirtola and I am currently the playing sports manager in Skutskärs IF. I am also a member of the association's board. Previously, I coached the women's team for a season in the Elitserien and also jump into the ice machine when there is a crisis.

What do you take with you to a bandy match?
- I have relatively big problems with frozen toes and fingers, so when I play by myself, I get very disappointed if I forget my thermal socks, which are by far the best investment I've made. As a spectator, I don't go without a pair of sturdy and warm gloves, it's usually Stålvallen from Bury Fen.

As I said, you have had many roles in the association. Tell us about your relationship with Skutskärs IF bandy!
- Skutskärs IF has truly been my second family and Skutskärs IP my second home since childhood. Dad played in the A team for many years, so it was pretty much a given that I would play too. He was also involved in building what is today the dressing room building at IP, so that I should carry on his non-profit banner is not really surprising either.

- I came up and started training regularly with the A team as a 15-year-old, so this is also the place where I became an adult and above all learned to take responsibility. But I am probably most grateful to have met so many wonderful people over the years. Everything from teammates, leaders, players, grinders, materials, ice makers, board members and supporters. I have been involved in several sports for quite some time, but the community in bandy is special and I think many in this sport can relate to that.

Johannes Siirtola with his black Model 2 from Bury Fen. Photo: Act Studio / Alexander Sundström

What are the biggest challenges with conducting bandy activities in Skutskär?
- A small municipality means a small municipal treasury. And in these places, unfortunately, it is often the bandy that gets hit, as we experienced ourselves in 2009. Then followed a few tough years with Jernvallen in Sandviken as a temporary home field and a severely damaged youth activity. But since 2014, we run and pay for our own artificially frozen facility on land that we lease from the municipality. We own and service our own ice machines, where one machine is actually said to have been used during the Winter Olympics in Innsbrück -76. We clean and maintain every square centimeter of the buildings, which we rent from the municipality. We do all this with the help of non-profit forces and an operating grant of SEK 275,000 per year from the municipality... which anyone who is reasonably familiar with association finance realizes that it is money that does not go far. But to get things going, we run a scrap collection, a people's park with premises for rent, our own second-hand shop in Skutskär's center in addition to the usual association lotteries and we sell bingo tickets.
- So there are, of course, several major challenges, both financially and organizationally. But if there is something I would like to turn around, it is the decline of non-profit forces in the association. Non-profit work within associations is the best thing a person can do for society today, it's a shame that more people don't realize it.

"Non-profit work within associations is the best thing a person can do for society today, it's a shame that more people don't realize it."

Skutskär's ladies won SM gold in 2018.

Skutskär's women's team won SM gold in 2018. Photo: Eljest Agency / Martin Mentell Widolf

Skutskär were "early" with their investment in the ladies and won the SM gold in 2018. Since then, several bigger clubs such as Villa, Västerås and Sandviken have started investing more in their women's teams. How do you see the development?

- The SM gold was of course incredibly big for us and something you are very proud of. I really smile every time I see pictures and videos from that time.

But improved conditions for women's players in general in Bandy Sweden are probably greater anyway. And that we contributed to getting that merry-go-round spinning.

The recent development with declining player base is of course alarming, but soon all teams in the women's Elitserie will be playing indoors and that creates completely different conditions for reversing that trend.

Will Skutskär be able to participate and fight for a SM gold again?
- You should never say never, but I am 100% sure that it will require a bandy hall and several years of rebuilding the girls' activities, or recruiting half a national team squad that does not care about external conditions. And then the former is the most likely, although it is very far away.

Back to your bandy interest. How much bandy is there in a regular season?

- If you compare it to an elite series player on the women's and men's side during the winter, it is still very little. But instead, I spend time distributed over the entire calendar year and mainly during late evenings. It can be anything from hunting sponsors, having meetings with the board and the municipality, taking care of the cooperative lottery, to establishing and contracting men's players.

- In addition, I want to have time to carpentry on our newly built house and at the same time be a present father to my daughters aged 2 and 4. So priorities have clearly changed over time.


What motivates you to spend the time you do on bandy?
- The most important thing for me has always been that the bandy should give more power than it takes. And then that special community that I mentioned earlier is so incredibly important. Without it, I would never have thought it was worth it.

- Then it is clear that, in an association like Skutskär, you feel a greater responsibility and wonder what will happen if I and the other non-profit forces can no longer stand up for the sport locally. Will the sport of bandy die in Skutskär then? I'm probably most afraid that it would feel like a betrayal to the father and everyone else who built those changing rooms, or those who rolled out those 9 miles of cooling hose after the municipality shut down the bandy court.

"I'm probably most afraid that it would feel like a betrayal to dad and everyone else who built those changing rooms, or those who rolled out those 9 miles of cooling hose after the municipality shut down the bandy court."

Johannes Siirtola with his black Model 2 from Bury Fen. Photo: Act Studio / Alexander Sundström

What is/are the finest moments of a season?
- I have to go for a Top 3 here:

1. Boxing day bandy at home on IP.

2. Get up to the IP and be met by mirror-like ice under clear blue skies.

3. To see a bandy court full of children and young people after several years without youth activities.

 You have actually also followed Bury Fen since the start! What are you stuck on?

- Mainly the design, but also the quality! I don't go to work without my black Model 2 and have been asked a lot about where it came from. Then I love a good story telling and Bury Fen has really convinced me there!

What is your favorite Bury Fen product?
- I really hate freezing my hands, so this is probably how I answer Stålvallen anyway.

The Stålvallen glove from Bury Fen – a personal favorite of Johannes Siirtola.

If you were to rank the best arenas in the Allsvenskan downwards, what would the top 3 look like?

- Hmm, hardest question today! It would be easier to answer who are the bottom 3... and then it is clear that in the concept of "best arena" there is a lot that should really be weighed in with the best ice, acoustics, lighting and so on. But here I still choose to go for perceived comfort factor and then Skutskär, Kalix and Gustavsberg are my choices.
- I also want to add that I really miss playing at Bruksvallen in Karlsborg and at Bruksvallen in Söderfors, which were two really nice arenas to visit during my career.


Finally, what's your best tip for someone who doesn't usually go to bandy?

- Dress warmly, drink warmly and soak up the community!