As the year draws to a close and with 2024 on the horizon, we take a step back and appreciate the strides forward FSE and its members have made together in 2023, and what is to come next year.
To begin, we must address the CJEU ruling yesterday (21st December). FSE’s full statement can be read here. Already since the court’s decision, the European football community including FSE, UEFA, football clubs and leagues of all sizes, FIFPRO Europe, and other stakeholders have rallied together to reassert our uncompromising opposition to breakaway leagues, once again standing firm against those same few who try to harm our game for their self-interested benefit. Whatever comes next, the super league remains an ill-conceived project that endangers the future of European football. We will continue to fight against it until it is gone once and for all.
2023 saw several significant moments for FSE’s position as a formally recognised football stakeholder. The historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with UEFA re-confirms supporters as a meaningful stakeholder within European football and builds on the strength of cooperation established in recent years. Part of that agreement saw FSE take up seats on two UEFA committees (Stadium and Security Committee and Fair Play & Social Responsibility Committee), ensuring the views of fans are represented in the decision-making process within European football structures.
FSE and co-hosts the Football Supporters Association held EFFC 2023 in Manchester in June, with supporters from 27 nations attending the biggest programme for EFFC yet. EFFC23 was memorable for several reasons. It was the first EFFC to receive an address from a UEFA President in Aleksander Čeferin, with English FA Chair Debbie Hewitt also taking part in the subsequent panel session. We were joined by African supporters organisation Sandlanders at EFFC for the first time, as well as over 70 national supporters organisations and local fan groups from across Europe. A broad array of topics was covered across 18 workshops, including an entire day dedicated to women’s football and developing FSE’s own policy in this area, which was particularly relevant ahead of the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand the following month.
2023 also saw FSE introduce two new On-Topic Divisions, cementing the Supporter Liaison Officer and Fan Ownership & Heritage Protection work into the organisation, with Sofia Bohlin and Alan Russel appointed as the OTD Heads for the divisions respectively.
Development work around the SLO role continued this year with an SLO Network Meeting in Manchester in June, assessment visits to a number of countries, new connections and, and the SLO Education Programme in partnership with UEFA Academy delivered in Sweden, Ireland, and Scotland. To have a supporters organisation delivering training to SLOs, as well as clubs, leagues, and NAs demonstrates our place as the trusted expert in this field.
2023 saw the conclusion of several European-funded projects under SD Europe’s banner (TRANSFER, Kick-Off! and Fans Matter!), as well as the beginning of three new projects. TPDS will continue FSE’s work around developing the SLO role with a specific focus on minimum industry standards and educational opportunities. SAFER, meanwhile, addresses the issue of gender-based violence and discrimination within the game. Finally, Future of Football focuses on increasing the numbers of young people involved in democratic structures within supporters’ organisations and football clubs. All three projects will continue throughout 2024 and into 2025.
FSE’s Fan Ownership & Heritage Protection working group was established this year to help develop a dedicated work programme to provide relevant and practical support to fans, supporter groups, and member clubs around the topic. FSE launched a dedicated survey related to considerations around fan ownership and heritage protection in the summer to inform our future work, with next steps to be confirmed in early 2024.
As well as the additional the OTD heads, FSE welcomed four new colleagues into the team, with Jussi, Mattia, Sara, and Tracy joining our ranks, further increasing our capacity and expertise across the organisation.
UCC & Campaigning
FSE continued to collect experiences from supporters attending away matches in UEFA Club Competitions via the Away Fans Survey during 2023, with feedback collected from the 2022/23 season directly contributing to improvements being made in 46 away sectors. Additionally, the FSE team took part in preparatory visits and observations of all UEFA’s UCC finals, aiming to deliver vital insights into UEFA’s planning, as well as feedback on best practice and areas in need of improvement in the aftermaths of the games. For the first time, FSE also published details of its UCC ticket data analysis, which demonstrated that further action is needed to ensure fans’ loyalty is not exploited by ticketing policies.
We also continued to hold the game’s governing bodies to account on national team and club tournament matters, including our significant concerns regarding UEFA’s decision to award the hosting of EURO 2032 to Italy and Türkiye. We also expressed our total dismay at FIFA’s decisions on the 2030 and 2034 editions of the World Cup, and the gluttonously expanded 2025 Club World Cup.
Human Rights remains high on the agenda for FSE, with our ongoing contributions in collaboration with our Sport & Rights Alliance partners continues to draw attention to football’s responsibilities. Most notable was the SRA’s contribution and consultation on the Human Rights Declaration for EURO 2024 unveiled by UEFA and the DFB in November.
Preparations are well underway for the Fans’ Embassies project in Germany during EURO 2024, with a collaboration with Koordinationstelle Fanprojekte (the KOS) progressing well and a second Fan Forum, similar to the event held ahead of EFFC22, planned for Fans’ Embassies & key football stakeholders at the end of January.
Looking ahead to 2024
In last year’s end of year message, we noted our delight in seeing FSE – as an organisation – growing, alongside our thriving membership, areas of work, and influence within the European game. Throughout 2023, we believe we have built further on the strong foundations needed to move the European supporters’ movement further and established fans as key stakeholders at all levels of the game across Europe.
2023 truly was a landmark year for European supporters. It has never been clearer that we collectively possess the agency and influence to protect our game and ensure its long-term future from the grassroots to professional level, across both the men’s and women’s games, by continuing to campaign and work towards a more sustainable, fair, and inclusive game.
Whatever 2024 holds, we will be ready for it!