We know that, through no fault of their own, fans can encounter serious problems when following their team, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. They might be arrested before, during, or after a match, then prosecuted and/or banned, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is unacceptable. Fans’ rights are human rights.
That is why, in 2011, FSE established the Fan Lawyer Network, which serves two main purposes: first, to provide a forum for likeminded lawyers from different countries to exchange information; and second, to make sure that fans have access to legal advice and support when travelling.
If you encounter any problems watching your team in international competitions—or require information on a particular country and want to be put in touch with a fan lawyer—please contact us via info[at]fanseurope.com or our Twitter account. Fans of national teams can find more information on the FSE Fans’ Embassies website.
Violence and discriminatory behaviour occur at football matches. Such behaviour should, of course, be dealt with in a transparent, proportionate, and particular manner. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.
Although the specific risk of fans being unfairly targeted differs from country to country, the problem itself is a general one that spans national borders. In recent years, we have seen an increasing number of cases in which the principles of the rule of law have been downgraded or ignored, with fans subject to unjust and/or disproportionate treatment.
Many European countries have legal structures in place to prevent such abuses. Lawyers are especially important in this context, because, in addition to their work on behalf of fans on matchdays, they are also integral to the pre- and post-match legal framework, including:
- The preservation of fans’ rights and agreements between fans and other stakeholders.
- Access to and maintenance of country-specific legal resources and counsel.
- Representing fans in court.
Alongside this legal framework, FSE supports self-regulation and preventative work in the stands and within fans’ groups.
Legal Support at International Matches
International matches present special challenges for away fans, including:
- A lack of knowledge regarding local laws, rules, and customs.
- Uncertainty about the approach of the local police force and stewards.
- Difficulty establishing a person’s rights (i.e., in case of arrest).
- Language barrier.
For these reasons, as well as others, it is even more important for fans to have access to legal information and representation in case something goes wrong.
For over a decade, members of the FSE Fan Lawyer Network have helped fellow fans with all the above issues, either by providing legal information beforehand or representing affected fans on the ground. Some clubs, such as Eintracht Frankfurt (see our interview with their Fan Department), also hire local lawyers to accompany their respective fans for a whole trip, ready to interject and mediate if problems arise.
If you need legal information on a specific country or want to be put in touch with a fan lawyer, please contact us via info[at]fanseurope.org or have a look at the country-by-country contact list below.
Expanding the Network
We are always looking to expand the Fan Lawyer Network, but we do have to rely on your help in this regard. If you have any contacts for lawyers dealing with fans rights or defending supporters on a regular basis in YOUR country/city, please let us know via email at info[at]fanseurope.org.