From 6 to 9 July 2017, more than 300 fans from all over Europe and beyond met in Gent and Lokeren (Belgium) for the European Football Fans Congress 2017 of Football Supporters Europe (FSE). They were joined by representatives of the football governing bodies (UEFA, Swedish Football League, Belgian FA, etc.), as well as other stakeholders of European Football.
In addition to the traditionnal networking between fans and the Biennal General Meeting of FSE, the EFFC 2017 offered the opportunity to take part in different workshops and plenary sessions.
Please find the conclusions below:
Workshop 1: Away Fans at European Competitions
MODERATION: Matthijs Keuning (Supporterscollectief Nederland)
Football fans travelling to European competitions are facing multiple challenges: travel arrangements, visa requirements, heterogeneous security requirements, etc. FSE has been working for years on facilitating the travel conditions in UEFA competitions, advocating for the implementation of similar safety, security and services standards in the whole region. But many challenges remain, as the discussion about the status quo in this workshop showed.
Supporters from various countries gave officials an insight view of the problems they face regularly when travelling abroad, including visa problems and high financial efforts in case of short-termed fixtures or a lack of communications with the authorities and security personal. They outlined the need for minimum standards in various fields like ticketing, facility standards and away fans allocations. In an ideal case these would be part of an UEFA manual.
As one of the results of this workshop the FSE membership decided to set up the FSE survey on European away matches which kicked off in August 2017 and which has the aim to address the challenges for travelling fans.
Workshop 2: Football & Refugees: a practitioner’s perspective
MODERATION: Martino Simcik (Copa 90 & Clapton Ultras)
Participants: Mark Doidge (University of Brighton & FSE), David Naujeck (Willkommen im Fußball), Christopher Priestley (United Glasgow FC), Thomas Farines (Freedom United FC)
Over the past years, fans have been playing a key role in welcoming and supporting refugees. Through solidarity actions or the inclusion of refugees via football, supporters accompanied the mobilisation of the civil society in many European countries.
During these years, multiple initiatives have grown around football. In the workshop on football and refugees.
At the beginning, Mark Doidge, the director of FSE’s Anti-Discrimination Division introduced FSE’s work on this topic and reported from his experience as an academic who has studied the impact of sport for refugees in terms of their integration to their host country.
In the following different initiatives were introduced and Nadim Rai, a Syrian ultra and refugee in Germany spoke about his experiences in Germany. It appears that refugee projects must not be patronising and have an air of doing something for people. Rather they should involve refugees in deciding activities and promoting the role of them to actively become facilitators themselves. There is a wide-range of needs and differences within refugee communities and this needs to be reflected in the services and projects provided. Furthermore it is important that all levels of football are engaged on this issue such as FIFA, UEFA and national football associations.
Workshop 3: Council of Europe Convention on safety, security and service approach at football matches
MODERATION: David Bohannan (Pan-European Think Tank of Football Safety and Security Experts)
Participants: Stuart Dykes (SD Europe), Ilknur Yuksek (Council of Europe), Guy Theyskens (Belgian Federal Police), Martin Endemann (FSE)
The Council of Europe Convention is open to signatures since 03 July 2016. This convention aims to ensure a safe and welcoming environment in stadiums and provides measures regarding safety (quality of infrastructures, emergency and contingency plans), security (prevention of and sanctions against violence) and service (spectator facilities and quality of service). Due to its complexity, the content of the new Convention and the associated recommendations remain widely unknown by fan activists and other stakeholders in football. At the EFFC 2017, the content of the Convention and its annexes were presented from the point of view of a wide range of stakeholders: supporters, police, SLOs and the Council of Europe. All participants outlined the importance of the new Convention for all fans activists and their various interlocutors on the national and local level. Its implementation offers the opportunity for national supporters’ organisations to launch discussions with various agencies and other stakeholders, promoting its core principles such as dialogue, deescalation or multi-agency approach.
Workshop 4: Alternative approaches to pyrotechnics
MODERATION: Nicole Selmer (Editor in Chief Ballesterer, F_in Frauen im Fußball)
Participants: Lasse bauer (Brondby IF), Sofia bohlin (SFSU), Hanne Mari Jordsmyr (NSA), Alex Wolf (Orlando City FC)
The use of pyrotechnics in football stadia has long been seen as an unsolvable problem between fans and all other stakeholders of the beautiful game. While deeply rooted into the fan culture of most European countries, the use of pyrotechnics raises severe concerns on the side of clubs, football institutions and public authorities. Recent developments in Norway, Sweden, Denmark or the US have shown that alternative policies can allow clubs and fans to conciliate fan culture and security requirements.
As a role model of good practice, Alex Wolf, Vice President Gameday operations of US football club Orlando City FC reported about their ways to handle the use of pyrotechnics including pyro trainings for supporters who then are allowed to ignite smoke devices in dedicated areas. The Scandinavian representatives (SLO of Brondby IF, spokeswomen from Norsk Supporter Allianse and Svenska Fotbollssupporterunionen) reported about improvement being made in a legalization / certification process. Generally the panel was very lively as obviously there is a big need for information on pyro legislation and the use of devices in different countries.
Plenary 1: Supporters, terrorism and states of emergency
Öznur Oğuz (KaraKızıl/HOC,Turkey) | Pierre Barthélemy (Adajis and ANS, France) | Nico de Pauw (Security Officer Belgian FA, Belgium| Alexander Bosch (Initiative Open Society Germany)
MODERATION: Kevin Miles (FSE)
At a time when Europe is struck by terrorism to an unprecedented level, football fans have been on the forefront of the response to the current terror climate. Weather it is by losing fellow supporters, paying homage to the victims, demonstrating against terrorism or supporting refugees against the general suspicion they are placed under, the lives of many football fans and activists from all over Europe have durably been impacted by terrorism.
The panel discussion brought together speakers from both side of the spectrum: security practitioners and fan rights activists. It allowed to get a clear picture of how terrorism impacts safety, security and services at football matches, but also to identify cases of abuses when terrorist threat is used as an excuse to implement severe limitations in the freedom of movement, speech or association. From excessive away travel bans (France) to terrorism charges against fan activists (Turkey) and severe forms of policing (Germany), the discussion summarized both the difficulties for policy-makers to respond proportionately to the current security situation and the struggle of football fans in many European countries when they face excessive policies in the name of the fight against terrorism. It also outlined the role that supporters can play in the creation of safe and welcoming environment around football matches.
Workshop 5: Accessibility & Inclusion
MODERATION: Joanna Deagle (CAFE Managing Director), Elena Popova (CAFE Consultant)
Disabled people make up the largest minority group with over 1 billion disabled people living today. Despite advances in technology and understanding, many disabled people are still unable to express their love for the world’s most popular gamedue to inaccessible football stadiums. The workshop, which was attended by representatives of national associations, clubs and fans groups, highlighted the need of inclusion and the importance of accessibility, as disabled fans shared their experiences. It also provided an insight into CAFE’s Disability Inclusion and Etiquette Training (DIET) package.
Workshop 6: Fan.tastic Females Exhibition
MODERATION: Project coordination (Daniela Wurbs & Antje Grabenhorst)
Where there are books or interviews about a football fanbase, women are very rarely the ones telling the story. Likewise, female fans are hardly ever in the center of any legendary fan stories. Much more often, however, the absence of women inside the stands is an issue of both positive and negative comments in football. But is this really reflecting reality? From March 2017 onwards, FSE members are taking on a unique exhibition project: about 40 people from 14 countries will do research, interviews, take photos, write and curate to tell stories and the story of female fans in Europe. In the end, there should be a touring exhibition with portraits of different women football supporters, their networks, actions as well as female fan clubs and female sections of ultra groups from various regions across the continent. From summer 2018 onwards, the exhibition is due to go on tour in various European countries. The exhibition will be made possible thanks to the help of the PFiFF project of the German Bundesliga.
During the EFFC 2017 Fan.Tastic Females workshop in Belgium there was an interview training for the members of the working group on Interviews and a work meeting of the working group on History & Statistics.
The interview trainer Dr. Carrie Dunn from London was very professional and gave useful hints during the interview training to improve and develop the guidelines regarding interview questions for the exhibition.
Furthermore the working group on History & Statistics successfully developed lead questions for the fan researchers to allow them to filter their research for the exhibition in a targeted way. Apart from that, there was also a joint meeting of the working group members to brainstorm about next steps in the general project implementation.
Workshop 7: Accountability in Football: how supporters can contribute
MODERATION: Niamh O’Mahony, SD Europe
Accountability and transparency have rarely been more important tenants than in football today, and supporters have a crucial role to play in holding their clubs to the highest standards. The session which was chaired by SD Europe first heard from a number of different fan-owned clubs – including representatives of YB SK Beveren (Belgium’s first fan-owned club), HFC Falke, AFC Wimbledon and Cork City FC, hearing how such governance structures allow for significant accountability and oversight of decisions. Next, representatives from ACTasONE (supporters of Royal Antwerp), spoke about their attempts to secure a Golden Share in their football club previously, which failed. Now they are trying to strengthen the club’s ties with its local community through a range of initiatives including the possible appointment of a Community Manager. GeelZwart outlined that stronger protections for football clubs in Belgium are needed as they have concerns about the ownership of their football club Lierse S.K. – which is currently owned by an Egyptian. Ivo Belet MEP – who is a member our Erasmus+ project’s Advisory Board – spoke about the importance of football clubs having community links and initiatives, and also expressed concern about the current number of foreign owners in the top tiers of Belgian football and the impact it may have on the future development of the sport in Belgium.
Mats Enquist, Secretary General of the Swedish Football League, said he was interested to hear the many concerns being raised by supporters during the session and explained why his League’s 50+1 structure is the back bone of its steady development over the decades.
Plenary 2: Safe standing
Mats Enquist (CEO Swedish League) | Pete Daykin (FSF) | Mary Dieleman (Front 282) | Mark Timmer (UEFA) | Sandra Schwedler (FC St. Pauli)
MODERATION: Christopher Pauer (Stadionwelt)
While the majority of supporters across Europe want to have the choice whether to sit or stand when attending a football match, standing at a football ground is still generally forbidden in “all-seater” stadiums due to national legislation or (international) competition regulations.
During the discussion supporters underlined the need of safe standing from their point of view. They were backed by the head of the Swedish league, Mats Enquist, as well as Sandra Schwedler who is the chair of the advisory board of German club FC St. Pauli. Both reported about the positive effect of standing areas in their respective countries. Nevertheless, UEFA will stick to the current legislation of mandatory seating, said Mark Timmer (UEFA). He underlined that the safety of spectators has the utmost priority and is a question of safety standards and also liability. UEFA is constantly observing developments though.
Mats Enquist concluded that we need to talk about solutions instead of the problem and that this has to start in the respective national associations.