In late-February, representatives from Football Supporters Europe (FSE) visited Baku, Azerbaijan, to assess the city’s preparations for this season’s UEFA Europa League Final, which will take place in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday 29th May (23:00 local time).
Based on observations made during the visit, FSE identified several concerns regarding potential hosting conditions, including the human rights situation, ticket allocation, and the visa application process.
The latter was of particular concern because it entailed mandatory disclosure of an individual’s HIV status. FSE believes that this violates the right to equal protection under the law and the United Nations General Assembly’s Political Declaration on HIV and Aids.
FSE communicated these reservations to UEFA. They considered them serious enough to pass on to the Azerbaijani authorities, who acted accordingly.
To this end, on 9th April, the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree removing the HIV declaration from the e-visa application process. We must stress, however, that the declaration has only been removed from official channels—some third parties still include the question on their websites. As such, we advise that fans travelling to Azerbaijan for the final use official channels to apply for a visa.
FSE commends UEFA for its swift action, and we are satisfied that all travellers will be able to enter the country regardless of their health status.
While we still have concerns about other aspects of the fixture which we will continue to lobby on, we note that meaningful cooperation between fans, human rights organisations, governing bodies, and national authorities can lead to a positive outcome.
It is therefore vital that, going forward, all stakeholders continue to work together. They should do so around an internationally recognised framework of norms. In the end, this is the only way to ensure that major sporting events such as the Europa League, Champions League, and UEFA EURO 2020 live up to the high standards that we have all come to expect.
Along with our partners at the Sports Rights Alliance (SRA), FSE will continue to promote the human rights agenda in football and sport, as well as the safety and well-being of those most likely to be affected by any potential human rights abuses.