In early February, representatives from Football Supporters Europe (FSE), Spanish supporters’ group Federacion de Accionistas y Socios del Futbol Espanol (FASFE), and SD Europe visited Bilbao.
The visit was organised by the Council of Europe Standing Committee of the Convention on Spectator Violence and EURO 2020 Working Group. Its aim was to assess the city’s preparations for EURO 2020 with specific reference to the Committee’s 2018 Convention, of which Spain is a signatory. Based on the observations made during the visit, the Committee will produce a constructive report to inform and support the organisers.
The visit involved presentations by the Spanish, Basque, and Bilbao authorities, as well as practical observations of the Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona match (0-0), which took place on Sunday, 10th.
All relevant agencies and institutions in the Basque Country and Bilbao, from the police to the health service, have developed their own contingencies and strategies which feed into a single integrated plan.
The stadium, which will host four fixtures during the competition, is hyper-modern (construction work was completed in 2013) and has a history of hosting major sporting and cultural events, including the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup Final and 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards.
The Bilbao v Barcelona game demonstrated these core competencies.
That said, there are concerns about the often-belligerent approach employed by the Spanish police when it comes to foreign football supporters, though it must be noted that the Basque regional and municipal police do not seem to have the same record in recent years.
In addition, the city is yet to decide whether it will have fan zones and where they might be situated. When a decision is made, it may necessitate alterations to the integrated plan, especially in relation to security, segregation, and traffic management.
FSE has observer status on the Council of Europe Standing Committee of the Convention on Spectator Violence. FSE regularly takes part in consultative visits to Council of Europe member nations to assess their compliance with the Convention.
Image: San Mames by Jorge Garcia (via Unsplash)