On 17th November, Germany played Belgium in a UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifier. The game was hosted at the Schwarzwald-Stadion, home to Bundesliga side SC Freiburg.
Belgium managed to upset the home side with a 3-2 victory, courtesy of goals from Zinho Vanheusden and Loïs Openda. But the real story of the night was UEFA’s decision to allow supporters to stand in designated areas during the game—the first time, as far as we are aware, that standing has been permitted in a UEFA competition since the introduction of the all-seater policy.
We understand that this move came after the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB – German FA) asked for permission to open the standing section after the seating areas had sold out. According to our sources, the local authorities responsible for security and safety were satisfied with the decision and events thereafter.
Football Supporters Europe (FSE) applaud the progressive approach adopted by both the DFB and UEFA. We believe this pragmatic attempt to ensure demand for tickets was met represents a significant milestone in the campaign to overturn UEFA’s all-seater policy. What is more, we are confident that it provides an unparalleled opportunity for further progress at all stadia that host UEFA competitions.
In response to this latest development, FSE Executive Director Ronan Evain commented:
“The evidence has shown time and time again that standing accommodation provides choice, enhances spectator safety, and improves the atmosphere in stadia. Its return to European football is long overdue.”
Helen Breit, spokesperson for German supporters’ organisation Unsere Kurve, and fan of SC Freiburg, echoed these sentiments:
“The decision to allow fans to stand during the Germany – Belgium Under-21 game was utterly sensible and without risk—after all, thousands of Freiburg fans like myself stand safely in the very same section week in, week out, and have done so for decades. Unsere Kurve support standing in European competitions and, on that basis, we urge the powers that be to reconsider their position.”
In recent years standing sections have been introduced in France, Scotland, Russia, and the Netherlands, while England and Wales are moving rapidly in the same direction. In addition to other countries such as Germany and Sweden that have a long history of allowing standing sections, this shows that there is a clear trend towards evidence-based policymaking on this subject throughout the UFEA region.
In February 2019, FSE, Unsere Kurve, and 17 other national supporters’ organisations launched the EUROPE WANTS TO STAND campaign. While the supporters’ movement reiterates its belief that the current policy is outdated, unpopular, and unfair, FSE remains committed to working with UEFA to implement a policy that provides fans with the choice of standing safely.