The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation which requires all football stakeholders to work together to ensure the best outcomes, both with regards to short-term issues around competitions and longer-term consequences for the sport in general. This includes players, clubs, associations, leagues, and, of course, supporters and supporters’ groups.
In view of UEFA’s announcement earlier today, Football Supporters Europe (FSE) would like to take this opportunity to highlight the following points, made on behalf of its Board and after consultation with its membership and Fans’ Embassies:
- Safety must come first (players, employees, fans and the wider public) and FSE commend UEFA for recognising and acting upon this by suspending its competitions until further notice. Football must take all necessary actions to prevent or limit the spread of the virus.
- The postponement of UEFA EURO 2020 to the summer of 2021 is the right decision. This offers clarity to match-going fans as well as ensuring domestic stakeholders have more flexibility to continue national competitions at a later stage.
- Again, FSE applauds UEFA for clarifying that existing ticket buyers will be refunded in full if they cannot attend the tournament in 2021. This will reduce the financial impact on travelling fans.
- FSE acknowledges that the UEFA EURO 2020 Play Off matches are now intended to be played in the international window at the start of June, subject to a review of the situation. All stakeholders should, however, remain mindful of the risks to players, workers and fans, as well as the ethical issues around continuing the season while a serious public health crisis is ongoing.
- FSE thinks it is a wise decision to put the European Club Competitions on hold until further notice and create a working group to examine calendar solutions that would allow for the completion of the current season. We are hoping any decisions made on these competitions will be announced in due course.
- In any case, FSE firmly believes that hosting European games behind closed doors should only be considered as a last resort.
- To increase transparency and acceptance of upcoming measures from the wider public, UEFA should continue to involve fan organisations in its on-going crisis management. UEFA should also encourage all national football associations to do the same with their respective fans’ organisations.
On a final note, FSE would like to highlight and praise the role played by fans during the crisis: first, for their understanding and sense of responsibility in the face of extraordinary circumstances; and second, for their proactive involvement in community initiatives aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and helping those most in need.
Football is important, but not so important that it cannot wait. Over the coming weeks and months, we urge everybody to pull together in solidarity with all those affected by the crisis.