The group stage of EURO 2016 showed that much fewer problems occurred wherever authorities cooperated constructively with leading fan groups from the Fans Embassies as part of the solution and facilitated a good atmosphere for the majority, especially at high-risk matches. We call for a reinforcement of a sincere dialogue with supporters’ representatives in order to foster the early prevention of troubles for the rest of this UEFA EURO 2016.
The teams of fan volunteers from 19 participating countries organising Fans’ Embassies and related services for travelling supporters under the project RESPECT FAN CULTURE are drawing a predominatly positive picture of the Group Stage matches at EURO 2016. At the same time, all of them clearly stressed that the violent incidents as they occurred could have been prevented or at the very least minimised if the input provided by the fan experts from the Fans Embassies had been considered and followed through in match day preparations from the start.
Whilst cooperation and communication between the Fans’ Embassies teams and Host Cities as well as UEFA and the national body DIGES were very positive and trustful, this was hardly the case with policing authorities. Where incidents occurred at this UEFA EURO 2016 up until now, police usually reacted far too late and with immediate escalation against all fans, rather than with proportionate and targeted intervention and isolation of evident perpetrators. But where police and organisers reached out to the Fans Embassy teams, considered their recommendations and otherwise facilitated a festive atmosphere for the majority, hardly any disturbances were recorded.
Especially authorities and organisers in the City of Lens were praised for their handling of tens of thousands of supporters in town when England and Wales met. Despite major security concerns ahead of the match, in particular 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 to say that this was the outcome of extensive consultations with supporter representatives from among the Fans’ Embassy staff from both countries and many subsequent talks of the supporters with their peers around the Fans Embassies.
It would be logical to assume that this cooperation should be fostered in all Host Cities in view of this example. However, in contrast to this, and despite the positive work conducted by these fan volunteers from 19 countries, 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 matchday.
Furthermore, the numerous alcohol bans which followed the incidents in Marseille between Russian hooligans and English supporters were seen as a counter-productive measure and as sign of helplessness by most supporters. It was considered deeply unfair by this majority of peaceful fans who were the most affected by it but had nothing to do with the violent attacks in the first place. 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 approach punishing all fans who want nothing but to enjoy a festive event and urgently needs to be reconsidered.
All in all, what should be most remembered of this EURO 2016 until now though are the majority of peaceful and festive matches and encounters across France with football fans celebrating international solidarity at the best of their behaviour. We would wish for more media to cover this as well, as part of their contribution to minimise the scope of action and attractiveness of this EURO2016 for other elements.
Coordinated by Football Supporters Europe, the following 12 participating countries will continue to run Fans Embassy services for travelling fans in all Host Cities around the final stages of this UEFA EURO 2016: Switzerland (Fanarbeit Schweiz), Croatia (Fans Embassy Croatia), Wales (FSF Cymru), Northern Ireland (AONISC), Hungary (Fans Embassy Hungary), Belgium (1895 Belgium Fan Club), Germany (Koordinationsstelle Fanprojekte & Fanclub Nationalmannschaft), Italy (Fans’ Embassy Italy), France (Irresistibles Francais), Republic of Ireland (YBIG), England (Football Supporters Federation) and Iceland (Tolfan).
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 in the area of safety & prevention at European policy level. The Fans Embassies at UEFA EURO 2016 are operating under the project name RESPECT FAN CULTURE and are supported by UEFA, the Daniel Nivel Foundation and the French partner organisation Concordia. For further information visit the Fans’ Embassies website.
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