Just like the new European Champions Portugal, Football Supporters Europe’s Fans’ Embassies teams can look back at their most successful tournament in history: fan volunteers from 19 participating countries were in operation to guide travelling fans through all stages of EURO 2016. At the same time, a critical evaluation of the security concepts at the tournament is due.
Fans’ Embassies and related services for travelling supporters under the project RESPECT FAN CULTURE provided help and information on match days for supporters following their teams and reported a high demand from fans throughout the tournament. In total there were 160 volunteers and staff members running Fans’ Embassies info points around every match at the tournament.
There were Fans’ Embassies for the supporters of the following teams: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Wales. The Fans’ Embassy Division of Football Supporters Europe wants to thank every single person involved and also highlight the productive cooperation with and great support received from UEFA, the Daniel Nivel Foundation, the French partner organisation Concordia, most French Host Cities, as well as from various national football associations and governments from participating countries at this tournament.
Whilst coordination, communication and general working conditions between the Fans’ Embassies teams and Host Cities such as in Lille, Nice or Toulouse, as well as with UEFA and the national body DIGES were very positive and trustful, this was only the case after the group stage with policing authorities. Only at a small number of matches during the group stage did police seem to be willing to consider recommendations from the fan experts of the Fans’ Embassies. Especially around potential high-risk fixtures or once incidents appeared, police did not consult with the Fans’ Embassies. But where police reached out to the Fans’ Embassy teams and otherwise facilitated a festive atmosphere for the majority, hardly any disturbances were recorded.
Authorities and organisers in the City of Lens therefore deserve a particularly big “thank you” for their handling of tens of thousands of supporters in the town when England and Wales met. Despite major security concerns ahead of the match, especially after events in Marseille, the small city still provided a warm welcome to a huge crowd of football fans. The English and Welsh fans paid it back by celebrating a big party around their teams’ match all day, without any relevant incidents. We are confident saying that this was the outcome of extensive consultations with supporter representatives from among the Fans’ Embassy staff from both countries, and the many subsequent conversations the Fans’ Embassy teams had with their fellow supporters in the run-up to the game. Even Marseille police had learned their lesson after the events around England vs Russia and involved the supporters from the Fans’ Embassy teams from France and Albania in consultations for the next match in town. The result just once again: no major problems.
However, in contrast to this, and despite the positive work conducted by the fan volunteers, and whilst permitting fan marches eventually, the City of Paris failed repeatedly to provide appropriate facilities for the international Fans’ Embassy teams to operate appropriately on match day. Furthermore, the alcohol bans following the incidents in Marseille between Russian hooligans and English supporters have to be seen as a counter-productive measure and a sign of total helplessness. Alcohol bans did not sanction the perpetrators at all. Hooligan attacks in Marseille, Nice or Lille weren’t caused by drunken disorder but by the sheer will to create trouble in combination with a poor police response. It has been a paternalistic response punishing all fans who want nothing but to enjoy a festive event.
All in all, what may be most remembered of this EURO 2016 though are the majority of peaceful and festive matches and encounters across France with football fans celebrating international solidarity on their best behaviour and the most successful Fans’ Embassy services ever. And their work will continue beyond EURO 2016: in September 2016, all Fans’ Embassy Teams from the participating countries will meet once again with the organisers in France. Together they will evaluate the fan arrangements at the tournament to build a legacy by using EURO 2016 as a chance to review national security concepts in a way that can integrate fan dialogue as key for festive and safe football events in France in the future. Conclusions from the evaluation will be published shortly afterwards.
Football Supporters Europe also lost an important member and a dear friend during the tournament. Erik Reynaerts, who had organized the Belgian Fans’ Embassy, tragically passed away on Monday 27 June after suffering a severe heart attack the day before. We will always keep him in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. We wish them all the strength, unity and love required to help them through these coming days and weeks of grief and sorrow.
Fans’ Embassy is the name that has been given to an advice, information and support service for football supporters travelling to international tournaments or away games in foreign countries, organised by fans and for fans. For more than 20 years Fans’ Embassy initiatives have contributed to festive atmospheres and reduced tensions and violence at major tournaments. Developed by supporters, the concept today is recognized as best practice policy in the area of safety & prevention at European level. The Fans Embassies at UEFA EURO 2016 were operating under the project name RESPECT FAN CULTURE and are supported by UEFA, the Daniel Nivel Foundation and the French partner organisation Concordia, as well as by various French Host Cities, national football associations and governments of participating teams. For further information visit the Fans’ Embassies website.