Last month, fans from across Europe convened in Frankfurt for the 2022 European Football Fans Congress (EFFC) and FSE Biennial General Meeting (BGM). Both events were kindly and expertly hosted by Eintracht Frankfurt.
EURO 2024 Fan Forum
Things kicked off on Thursday, 21st July, with the EURO 2024 Fan Forum—a joint initiative between FSE, Uefa, the German FA (DFB), and tournament organisers. Hosted at the new DFB Campus, the forum brought together fans’ embassies, national football associations, and domestic police representatives (NFIP) from over 30 nations, providing an opportunity for them to exchange their perspectives and experiences. In the afternoon, participants took part in two workshops, discussing their expectations for host cities and venues, respectively.
On the Friday, the Congress began at the Riederwaldstadion—home to Eintracht’s youth teams. FSE’s Executive Director Ronan Evain and Diversity Officer Antje Grabenhorst outlined the weekend’s programme, before handing over to Philipp Reschke, board member at Eintracht Frankfurt, and Henning Schwarz to introduce the work of the Eintracht Fan Department. The opening addresses were followed by a keynote speech delivered by Ukraine Fans’ Embassy coordinator Oleg Soldatenko. Oleg’s harrowing account of the Russian invasion—which ended with a plea for football fans to help in any way possible—prompted a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd.
Next, Philipp and Henning were joined by Michael Gabriel (FSE and KOS), Waltraut Verleih (fan lawyer), Daniela Wurbs (Network Against Sexism and Sexualised Violence), and Kathrin Dannenberg (Unsere Kurve) to discuss the current state of organised fandom in Germany. Further highlighting their unparalleled hospitality, the club brought the Europa League trophy in tow, which they thoughtfully left on the table for a few minutes after the panel session concluded, much to the delight of every amateur photographer in the building.
The rest of the day was dedicated to seven interactive workshops:
- Future of European club competitions
- National Team SLOs and their role
- Sexualised violence in football: awareness and allyship
- Sexualised violence in football: exchange and counterstrategies
- Away fans’ rights at Uefa competitions
- NFT, crypto, and fan engagement
- Football has no gender? Experience and empowerment in fan scenes
Uefa Managing Director of European Affairs & Governance, Julien Zylberstein, and Fans Relations Specialist, Siobhan O’Brien, also spoke on ‘The Future of Fan Representation in European Football’ during a conversation with Ronan Evain and FSE Board member Martha Gens. All panelists agreed that relations had improved significantly since supporter organisations became part of the Stakeholder Affairs department.
Saturday started with four network meetings, allowing the respective groups to share the latest developments in their areas of work:
The F+ Collective meeting was particularly significant because it marked the first in-person gathering since the network was established 18 months ago. Building on this milestone, the collective agreed to hold meetings and run workshops at all EFFCs, while organising online working groups in-between. They also decided that discussions would not be limited to gender, but would always be approached from a female+ perspective. Security (guidance on body searches, regulations and rules on safeguarding female+ fans, etc.), gender allyship, and a report on female+ fan representation in European football were all suggested as potential subjects to explore in greater depth.
After lunch, Philipp Sohmer (ARD/Sportschau)brought proceedings to a close by moderating a unique plenary session on the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Joe White (Three Lions Pride), Martin Endemann (FSE), Steve Cockburn (Amnesty International), and Sarah Agerklint (Danske Fodboldfans) discussed football’s relationship to human rights, covering bidding requirements, fans’ rights, and workers’ rights, as well as human rights criteria for the 2023 World Cup and EURO 2024.
Another successful EFFC was followed by the 2022 FSE BGM. Staff and Board members presented a full activity report, covering everything from inclusion and Uefa club competitions to institutional relations and general campaigning, before submitting the organisation’s financial report to the meeting.
Individual members and delegates then elected a new Board and team of internal auditors by a confirmatory vote. Hüseyin Emre Balli (individual member), Pierre Barthelemy (Association Nationale des Supporters), Paul Corkrey (Fans Embassy Wales), Martha Gens (Associação Portuguesa de Defesa do Adepto), Kevin Miles (Football Supporters’ Association), Herjan Pullen (Supportersvereniging Ajax Amsterdam), and Gregor Weinreich (Club Nr.12 – Bayern) were all re-elected to the Board. Sofia Bohlin (Svenska Fotbollssupporterunionen / SD Europe), meanwhile, was elected to the Board for the first time.
FSE stalwart Jim Spratt resigned from the Board after seven years of service. We would like to place on record our utmost thanks to Jim, whose passion, commitment, and wisdom will be greatly missed during board discussions.
Finally, members and delegates debated, voted on, and ultimately adopted nine policy motions and 1 constitutional amendment:
1. Merger with SD Europe. (Proposed by the FSE Board) The FSE Board proposes that Football Supporters Europe merges with SD Europe, in line with the agreed principles of the “Merger Principles” document.
Constitutional Amendment – Addition of SD Europe workstreams
For Section 2, Point 5 of the FSE constitution:
f. Assisting in the promotion and implementation of the supporter liaison officer (SLO) role through the provision of expert support and training, projects and initiatives that develop the potential of the role for local and national supporters’ organisations, as well as encouraging enhanced dialogue and communication between various football and non-football stakeholders and relevant supporters’ organisations
g. Representing and supporting national and local supporter organisations and groups, who wish to be involved in the decision-making processes and/or ownership of football clubs, member-run football clubs and football clubs entirely or partially owned by supporters, or decision-making processes of national and international football governing bodies;
h. Organising and coordinating European Union-funded projects designed to further the aims of the Association and its members by partnering with relevant organisations and stakeholders;
2. Consideration of name. (Proposed by the FSE Board) This BGM welcomes the decision of the SD Europe AGM to endorse the merger of SD Europe with FSE, and also the similar decision of this FSE BGM.
We note the agreement in the “Merger Principles” document to put before the FSE BGM the two options of either retaining the name “Football Supporters Europe”, or of changing the name to “European Football Supporters Association”. In line with that commitment to allow FSE members to determine this issue, it is the firm and unanimous recommendation of the FSE Board not to change the name of FSE.
We move that the FSE BGM retains the name “Football Supporters Europe”. If a member prefers the e.V. to be known as “European Football Supporters Association” (EFSA) in the future, they should vote against this motion. If the motion is defeated, a constitutional amendment to change the name of the e.V. will be submitted at the next BGM.
3. Call for Remedy for abuse of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. (Proposed by Unsere Kurve; Danske Fodboldfans) We are asking the BGM to support the request for remedy for abuse of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar, as outlined below.
In May 2022, several members of the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Football Supporters Europe, penned an open letter to FIFA CEO Gianni Infantino calling for FIFA to contribute to a remedy fund for migrant workers who have suffered abuse in preparation for the World Cup. Citing the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, the letter outlines FIFA’s (and other governing bodies that are profiting from the WC), responsibility to respect human rights across Qatar.
Since 2010, when FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar despite its poor human rights records and massive infrastructure deficit, thousands of migrant workers have lost lives to unexplained causes or suffered injuries, and many more have been victims of wage theft by their employers. Qatar, FIFA, the Supreme Committee and other actors including employing companies all bear a responsibility, independent of each other, to contribute financially to a remediation programme. Paying for the scale of remedy for families of those who have died, to compensate for unpaid wages, to reimburse illegal recruitment fees, and to support initiatives to protect workers’ rights in the future will require a significant investment proportional to the abuses suffered.
The signatories called on FIFA to:
(i) Commit to establishing, with Qatar, a comprehensive remediation programme to address abuses suffered by migrant workers in the preparation and delivery of the 2022 World Cup that remain outstanding;
(ii) Set aside no less than US$440 million to fund remedy of such abuses, with the harms to be redressed and reparation measures to be offered being decided through a participatory process and subject to an independent evaluation;
and, (iii) Enhance and strictly implement its human rights criteria for future events and strengthen its human rights due diligence processes.
FSE signed the initial letter following an FSE board decision when it was published, the DFF and Unsere Kurve are now asking this FSE BGM to fully support the open letter and asks our members to send a sign that Europe’s fan organisations are fully behind this call for comprehensive remedy for migrant works.
4. Improved sustainability at future BGMs. (Proposed by the FSE Board) Future FSE BGMs should minimise the use of paper where possible, with all documents available digitally (created to be accessible to account for screen readers and voice assistants), while printed documents will be made available to members by request.
5. Supporter safety. (Proposed by Manchester United Supporters Trust; Spirit of Shankly; West Ham United Supporters’ Trust; Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust) Congress notes the many supporter safety issues at recent Uefa club and international competition finals and similar issues for away fans at other competition match venues.
Congress therefore requests the FSE Board to engage with Uefa, and the relevant national, city and policing authorities, to address the underlying issues including, but not limited to:
(1) Creating and maintaining a safe environment for visiting supporters in the vicinity of and inside the stadium, including stadium access, policing and stewarding;
(2) Capability and infrastructure to welcome and manage anticipated numbers of visiting supporters to the city and the stadium;
(3) Improved and fully enforced provision for disabled supporters including number of tickets, facilities, support and personal safety inside and outside the stadium;
(4) The accountability of clubs, local authorities and local police for maintaining a safe environment throughout the event including the use of evidence-based crowd management plans;
(5) The process of open ballot ticket sales for Uefa finals to the extent (a) they may create additional risks of fraud and touting; and (b) they limit availability to supporters of the teams involved;
(6) The cooperation and support of clubs in communicating with/advising their supporters.
6. Supporter experience for away fans in European club competitions. (Proposed by Arsenal Supporters Trust; Manchester United Supporters Trust; Spirit of Shankly; West Ham United Supporters’ Trust; Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust) Congress notes:
(i) Existing FSE policy in relation to away fans including the successful work it has undertaken on an away price ticketing controls;
(ii) That from 2024/25 fans will be travelling to even more matches as the European Club competitions are expanded in size;
(iii) That Uefa is still to determine financial redistribution mechanisms for the 2024/25 to 27/28 season.
Congress calls on the FSE Executive to continue to work with Uefa, its relevant committees and other stakeholders to secure improvements to the supporter experience for away fans in European club competitions, including:
(i) Introducing further away ticket pricing controls, and then enforcing them, so that travelling fans are not exploited. This should include a further reduction in the pricing that can be charged in the group stages and round 16;
(ii) Introducing common best standard practice for the entire match day experience that would include arrangements for ticketing; location of away fans in the stadium, stadium welcome and ground signage, turnstile entry arrangements, toilets and catering (including specified requirements on facilities for female and disabled supporters);
(iii) Requests Uefa to allocate a small portion of central funding from its increased broadcast revenues to support clubs to meet these standards;
(iv) Improved arrangements for European finals, including allocating more tickets to supporters of the competing teams.
7. The future of European club competitions from 20224/25 – a fair revenue distribution model for competitive balance. (Proposed by Arsenal Supporters Trust; Manchester United Supporters Trust; Spirit of Shankly; West Ham United Supporters’ Trust; Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust) Congress notes that Uefa has recently announced a new and expanded club competition structure from 2023/24. This new structure will see an expanded number of games played in all three of the competition formats. This will see an increase in central and club revenues from activities such as ticket sales, commercial exploitation and broadcast rights. Congress also notes and welcomes the existing FSE policy document that has a central aim of promoting revenue distributions that ensure competitive balance across a wide number of competing clubs from many different national leagues so that football does not go even further in being dominated by just a few clubs. There is a real danger that without fair redistribution policies the European competitions will become a closed shop.
Congress calls upon the FSE board to continue their work to secure a more balanced redistribution model from Uefa later this year through further liaison with Uefa and other key stakeholders such as the European leagues. The aim should be to secure a future of European football that is for the many not the few.
8. Membership communications. (Proposed by the FSE Board) The Board notes that there is work needed in the area of membership communications as well as the provision of information on the interim status of ongoing projects. In addition, the Board would like to see more opportunities – especially for young or new members – to get involved in topics of interest.
The planned merger of FSE and SDE will bring the challenge of memberships getting to know and understand each other and their projects even better. One of the main focuses of SDE’s work is fan and member participation at all levels in football; for example, by supporting the idea of member-run clubs. This spirit is to be lived even more intensively in the organisation created by the merger of FSE and SDE. The next Board will therefore be tasked with paying special attention to this topic area between now and the next BGM.
The following goals are to be pursued:
(i) Examine the possibility for members to exchange information on current topics;
(ii) Examine the possibility to set up digital working groups on topic-specific projects;
(iii) Examine the possibility for members to access helpful documents or a collection of best practice examples;
(iv) Following a period of consultation with members, involving Board representatives, a roadmap for improvements will be presented to the board and membership, and will be incorporated as a specific workstream within the organisation’s new communications strategy and work plan.
9. FSE diversity strategy. (Proposed by the FSE Board) To build on the work of the F+ Collective and Fan.Tastic Female exhibition, FSE will develop and implement a strategy to help to diversify the organisation and its membership.
The full minutes of the meeting will be sent to members in the coming weeks.
All photographs by Markus Krämer.