England mobile FE 2010The final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was played a couple of days ago, the teams are on their summer holidays, the fans returned home and the German and English Fans' Embassy teams are back in their countries, too. It is time to look back at four weeks in South Africa, at two ambitious Fans' Embassy teams and to make a few critical comments.

Huge scepticism at all levels characterised the time before the first World Cup on African soil, especially when it came to security or organisational matters (accommodation, transport etc). Is South Africa capable of organising such a major event to Western standards? – that was the more or less explicit question asked everywhere. It is a matter of fact that the South African public was irritated by this huge amount of critical media reports and prejudiced statements.

After the triumph of the Spanish national team and the departure of all fans, both Fans' Embassy teams can state that none of these fears came true. The World Cup 2010 was safe, colourful and exceptionally hospitable. The most sustainable effect for the country might be that the South African authorities have proven to the world that they are able to organise such a major tournament. Hendrik Grosse Lefert, the officer-in-charge of the German police in South Africa, shares this view of the Fans' Embassy teams, "Regarding the fears before the World Cup that were not without reasons, now we clearly have to say: Kudos to you!"

Fans' Embassy concept successful

The German Fans' Embassy team composed by members of the Coordinating office for German fan projects and funded by DFB, the German Football Association, sums up the World Cup as a success. The activities of the Fans' Embassy included the website www.fanguide-wm2010.de, which was launched in December 2009 and regularly updated, the mobile Fans' Embassy run together with the German Embassy in Pretoria, the 24-hour helpline and the fanzine Helmut that was produced and distributed for free at each game in South Africa.

Similarly the English ran an Embassy from their Johannesburg base. Operating at all the venues where England played, on the day before the game, the day of the game and the morning after. As in Germany in 2006, it was supported by their website http://www.fsf.org.uk/worldcup two 24 hour telephone helplines (one was their usual English number, the other a local South African number), a free text messaging service and the usual informative fanzine, Free Lions, a new edition of which accompanies all England games.

Just like in former tournaments the concept based on the provision of authentic information on the websites about the conditions in South Africa for visitors, the country and the tournament itself. This information was to be found on the online fan guides long in advance of the World Cup and built the basis for the visiting fans to plan their journeys and to provide the supporters at home with interesting and entertaining information. The service was completed with the concrete information and advice service of the mobile Fans' Embassies in the host cities, with newsletters, text message updates and the helplines. Moreover, the fanzines Helmut and Free Lions gave insights from a fan cultural perspective – all together a concept that has proven to be successful not for the first time.

Overwhelming Hospitality

The central statement of all the thousands of German and English supporters that visited the World Cup 2010 was, "The World Cup was well-organised, safe and - that was obviously the most stated sentence - people in South Africa are exceptionally hospitable and people from all over the world enjoyed this hospitality." We estimate that in the group stage and in the round of the last 16 there were between 5000 and 10000 supporters for each game from England, boosted by similar numbers of ex-pats from the African continent and about 2000 to 3000 German fans. In the course of the tournament more and more South Africans often with German roots supported the German national team.

The German KOS and the English FSF want to point out the following central issues:

1.) The Fans' Embassies were an important tool both authentic and low-threshold to guarantee a feeling of safety among the supporters, even though this time there were not so many as usual. Due to the big cultural differences in South Africa the offer of professional fan work was even of higher importance than at other major tournaments.

2.) Helmut and Free Lions were the only two publications in South Africa that were exclusively published for fans by fans with all relevant information tailored for the needs of the visiting supporters. Fan relevant information about the host cities, personal fan stories of travelling fans, up-to-date stories and entertaining parts were included in the fanzines.

3.) The security objections regarding fan riots were groundless fears such as in any other major tournaments since 2000. This World Cup demonstrated once more that welcoming fans with respect, goodwill and hospitality is the best guarantee for a festive and safe atmosphere at the tournament.

4.) However, we really were irritated by the fact that the absolutely peaceful game England - Germany in the round of last 16 of the two former "hooligan nations" in Bloemfontein did not find any positive resonance in public and the media. From our perspective it is as well a success of the socio-preventive fans' work of England and Germany, the only two countries that ran Fans' Embassies in South Africa, that the relation between German and England supporters is much more relaxed nowadays than it used to be.

5.) The popularity of football as a global sport can be put down to the fact that it is a simple game that is understood and played by nearly everyone with hardly any special equipment. This popularity of the game is the basis for its high cultural and social role in society and key to integration for millions of people all over the world; not to forget about its economic relevance. With this background we'd like to make some critical remarks about the FIFA framework for the tournament in South Africa:

The ticket prices, especially for the games after the group stage, are definitely too high. They exclude a majority of football fans worldwide.

The ticket system that among others allows buying tickets before it is clear which teams play at the World Cup is inappropriate for those who want to come to support their national teams. As has been the case in all tournaments since 1998, it was mostly tickets originally allocated to sponsors and non-participating FAs which found their way onto the black market. Additionally a high amount of single tickets of people who could not come to South Africa for personal reasons appeared on the black market. The period of time between the acquisition of the tickets and the World Cup is simply too long. The conditions of sale of FIFA do not even then allow giving the tickets for free without written confirmation of FIFA. This is a totally fan unfriendly policy and leads to a great insecurity among supporters.

FIFA also seriously affected the pricing of accommodation. Hotel and guest house owners were contracted to Match, the official FIFA company. English supporters, who had recently stayed in South Africa on cricket tours, were reporting that prices in the same hotels, were now four or five times more expensive. Incidentally the owners of these establishments claimed to have far less bookings than expected.

We hope that FIFA rethinks these issues for the benefit of the game and the fans all over the world in order to unfold the full positive and uniting potential of the game.

Links:

The English WC 2010 Fan Guide: http://worldcup.fsf.org.uk

The German WC 2010 Fan Guide: www.fanguide-wm2010.de

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