2020 has been a challenging year for everybody.
That said, we believe FSE has adapted to these challenges, and we hope to continue doing so.
In July, for instance, FSE and AGF Fanclub Aarhus co-hosted a virtual Summer Network Meeting (#SNM2020). Despite the unusual circumstances, over 50 fan representatives from more than 20 UEFA region nations, as well as some from farther afield, logged on to join the discussion. As expected, much of the meeting was given over to the coronavirus and its impact on the game, both on and off the pitch.
Earlier this month, our Erasmus+ funded OUT! project ended with an online event compered by the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup and Sports Intergroup. Over a period of 24 months and through three transnational network meetings, OUT! brought together different stakeholders to work on the fight against LGBT-phobia and the empowerment of LGBT+ stakeholders in football. The resulting project handbook presents the project’s key observations, findings, and examples of good practice. 85 pages in length, it includes articles on the role of clubs, players, national associations, leagues, and fans, as well as interviews with and biographies of notable LGBT+ people involved in the game.
For their part, the Fan.tastic Females team devised an innovative solution to ensure their tour goes on: a 3D online exhibition, originally filmed at the FC St. Pauli Museum, where the project began in September 2018. The online exhibition incorporates all 78 Fan.tastic Females interviews, as well as the historical and contemporary statistics detailed on the physical exhibition’s panels.
Although most football has been played behind closed doors since March, we have closely monitored the situation across the continent. In the spring, we teamed up with SD Europe to launch Fans vs Covid-19, an online map which highlights the good work being done by fans, fans’ groups, and member-run clubs during the pandemic, from fundraising and solidarity banners to support for vulnerable groups and the health service. The map also acts as a platform for fans to share experiences, ideas, and good practice.
In addition to liaising with Fans Embassies, we travelled to Budapest for the UEFA Super Cup, which took place at the Puskás Aréna on 25th August. Our aim was to collect hard, reliable data on the viability of fans returning to stadia in UEFA club and national team competitions. We also sought to identify any issues that might arise from the implementation of public health measures and how these might be resolved.
To this end, we engaged with UEFA before, during, and after the match, spoke with the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Hungarian National Police, regional non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and Hungarian fans, met with fans’ representatives from both Bayern Munich and Sevilla, and created a 23-question online survey for fans of both competing clubs, with an option for those who did not attend to explain why. We then published our findings in the form of a report, which concluded that it is possible for fans to attend UEFA club and national team competitions games safely if the correct public health measures are put in place and clearly communicated.
And while the coming months are likely to throw up just as many obstacles as the past few, we are determined to ensure that fans are involved in discussions on return to stadia protocols. This goal will also inform our ongoing focus on the experience of away fans in UEFA club competitions, assuming travel and other restrictions are relaxed in 2021.
As you may have seen, we are pushing for fan involvement in UEFA club competitions and revenue distribution reform discussions, too. Yesterday, we published a statement reaffirming our commitment to the 6 principles that were unanimously adopted by our members at the 2019 General Meeting. It is of the utmost importance that those principles get a fair hearing, and we will do everything within our power to make sure they do. To be sure, our most recent online Board meeting laid the groundwork for a more proactive strategy in 2021.
We are also looking forward to inaugurating the F+ collective for female fans and providing advice and support services at EURO 2021. UEFA has said that there will be no decision on the latter until March, so our Fans’ Embassy team has been preparing—and is prepared—for a range of eventualities.
As for the 2021 Biennial General Meeting and EFFC, we are not yet in a position to know where or when they might be held, but we will update you as soon as we know more.
We hope that we will be able to see you all soon.
Until then, we wish you all the best for the festive period and a Happy New Year.
The Board of Football Supporters Europe