Football Supporters Europe (FSE) monitors a worrying trend prohibiting more and more fans from following their teams abroad during European club competitions.
Much to FSE´s disappointment, stadium closures and away travel bans are still widely used forms of collective punishment in European football, whether at UEFA or domestic level.
FSE has always been and remains highly critical of UEFA’s sanctioning policy, as these measures affect innocent away fans, who are not able to see their team playing abroad.
In recent months, however, FSE has observed another worrying trend preventing fans from following their team abroad: travel bans for away fans which are handed out by local authorities or football clubs.
During the play-off round of the European club competitions, for instance, Nice and Napoli fans were prohibited from travelling to one another’s stadia. Both times the local authorities decided to forbid fans from travelling under questionable pretexts—questionable pretexts which have also been invoked by the Prefetto of the Naples province to prevent Feyenoord fans from purchasing tickets for their game at Napoli this week.
The Turkish club Beşiktaş, meanwhile, released a statement earlier this season, urging their opponents in the Europa League not to sell tickets to Beşiktaş fans—a wish which so far has been fulfilled by their first group stage opponent Porto FC.
The list could go on and on.
All these decisions are not only serious breaches of the freedom of movement guaranteed by European institutions, but also lead to further security risks. Indeed, there is a certainty authorities and football governing bodies must acknowledge: fans will always follow their team.
Hundreds of Beşiktaş fans attended the Porto game on 13 September with tickets obtained for the home section. Should their club persist in not taking up their away sector allocations, there are likely to be even more Beşiktaş fans in Leipzig—a city with a sizeable German-Turkish population—come December.
A similar situation occurred in London during the recent Arsenal – 1.FC Cologne game, when the number of travelling fans was completely underestimated, leading thousands of visiting fans to purchase tickets in the home sections.
On 26 September, hundreds of Feyenoord fans will also be travelling to Napoli in spite of the ticketing ban. Most of them had already booked flights and accommodation when the ban was announced.
FSE is thus calling for all football governing bodies, clubs and local authorities to offer travelling fans a sufficient away allocation and enable them to watch their team’s games in Europe, so that all supporters can enjoy football freely and in a secure environment.
Furthermore, FSE will continue to monitor the conditions for travelling fans in European club competitions and are inviting all away fans to fill in its survey after their return.