Football Supporters International

 

 

 

Introduction

Over recent years, there has been a significant development in the provision of support and advice services for football fans from a number of European countries as they travel abroad following their team. Building on an initiative first undertaken by the Football Supporters’ Association among England fans at Italia ’90, there has been a parallel development in several countries of “Fans’ Embassy” services to travelling fans. In the course of these events, there have been a number of qualitative developments in the nature of service provided.

Euro 96 to Euro 2000

At Euro ’96 in England, for the first time a supporters’ organisation from the host nation provided a fans’ embassy service for visiting fans, involving multi-lingual guide material, goodwill events and close liaison with the agencies accompanying visiting fans. The World Cup in France in 1998 saw both the FSA and the German Fan Projekte organising mobile fans’ embassies accompanying the fans of their national sides through the tournament. Euro 2000 married together and built on both of these practices, by the establishment of fans’ embassy services in each of the host cities working in close co-ordination with mobile fans’ embassy or fan-coaching teams among the supporters of each competing country, pulled together primarily by the Dutch Eurosupport organisation.

Core organisations

In the course of these activities, and in particular at Euro 2000, groups from many countries were involved at least sporadically, which illustrates the potential for the development of this work. Nonetheless, there is a clear core group of organisations that have carried out this type of work on a consistent basis and with a large degree of international co-operation – the German Fan Projekte through KOS, Eurosupport with the Dutch fan projects, Progetto Ultra from Italy, and England’s FSA.

Of course, between each of the international tournaments these organisations were active in their own respective countries at various levels, and each has their own distinct methodology. There are clear differences in terms of reference and approach, for example between the social workers of the German and Dutch fan projects on the one hand, and the independent membership-based campaigning supporters’ organisation that is the FSA. There are even differences of emphasis and approach in terms of day-to-day practice between the fan project social workers of different countries. Nonetheless, experience has shown that there is a clear and substantial overlap in activities and informing principles in many of the core activities at international matches.

Experience and know-how

There is more than just experience that binds these four core organisations together. We are united by a commitment to common principles of international goodwill, of anti-racism, of the empowerment of grassroots football supporters, of promoting a positive football supporters’ culture. We have accumulated between us an unrivalled amount of experience and know-how of the needs of travelling football supporters. Our successful common work has been based on the premise that we do collectively that which we all have in common in terms of advice and support, and allow each other the freedom to augment that work with our specialisms, be they social work or fans’ campaigning.

The next stage

While there has clearly been much progress made over recent years in enhancing the quality and breadth of services provided in support of football fans internationally, and the degree of international co-operation between the specialist organisations, there remains enormous scope for further development.

  • Club matches Most of the work in support of fans travelling abroad has been at matches involving national teams, whether at tournaments, qualifying matches or friendlies. Significantly more fans travel abroad in Europe supporting club sides in Champions’ League or UEFA Cup matches, however.
  • Network development There is scope for a significant increase in the number of countries involved in the provision of similar services. Moreover, the extension of fan support services to club matches implies a far greater number of undertakings, with a consequent increase required in the numbers of groups equipped to carry out this work.
  • Central co-ordination Greater efficiency could be achieved by a centralised bank of useful information, contact lists, city guide material, travel and accommodation information, local laws and regulations etc, avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort.
  • Best practice models Experience has allowed conclusions to be drawn as to successful and useful methods, with greater or lesser degrees of sophistication depending on funding, staffing levels etc. These could be developed into best practice models for generalised use.
  • Training and supervision If greater numbers of participating groups are to be drawn into this area of work without a dilution of effectiveness, there is a clear need for a programme of training and supervision to enable the passing on of vital experience.
  • Relations with football authorities The degree of interaction with and support from the football authorities has varied between countries. While a crucial part of the effectiveness of fans’ embassy services stems from their independent position as “for fans, by fans”, there is no doubt that the impact they have on enhancing supporter experiences is of direct and indirect benefit to football authorities. Public recognition of this contribution and a measure of financial support should be a minimum; full integration of embassy services into tournament arrangements should become a standard for future UEFA- and FIFA-run championships.

Proposal – for an integrated international partnership

In order to make significant progress across the spectrum of areas mentioned above, a new stage of organisational development is required. The four named organisations involved in this area of work believe that we now have a sufficiently strong mutual confidence and respect, along with a substantial common core sphere of activity, to enable us to come together in an international partnership.

It is therefore proposed to establish Football Supporters International as an international organisation for the provision and development of support services to football supporters travelling abroad. By establishing an international bureau to co-ordinate activities involving fans of teams from more than one country we can greatly enhance the efforts currently being made by each of our organisations individually.

We set as the initial objectives of this organisation:

  • The collation of guide information to European cities likely to be involved in football at a European level. This to be assembled in collaboration with supporters’ organisations at the clubs concerned, drawing on their supporter-specific local knowledge and seeking to encourage their participation in goodwill events.
  • The creation of a website displaying this information in an accessible and regularly updated form.
  • The maintenance of a database of contacts of use in this sphere of activities – e.g. supporters’ groups, relevant club and national FA contacts, local authorities, specialist police contacts (match commanders etc)
  • Development of a repository of experience and know-how of fans’ embassy-type activities, with the aim of producing flexible best practice models of relevance to varying degrees of organisation.
  • The provision of training and guidance for ‘new’ fan groups seeking to initiate or develop activities along the lines described.
  • Monitoring of fans’ experiences and treatment at football matches abroad.
  • Piloting innovative schemes designed to encourage positive interaction between supporter groups.
  • Developing initiatives to promote the principles of ‘self-policing’ among football fans.
  • Offering advice where requested on the treatment and policing of supporter groups, and participating in the provision of fans’ embassy services at international tournaments.
  • All of the above to be underpinned by our principles of opposition to violence, racism and xenophobia, the promotion of football as a means of propagating friendship across national and cultural boundaries, and client and client group confidentiality.

It is clear that the achievement of the above objectives would be of enormous benefit to all parties within the ‘football family’. It is equally clear however that to achieve them will require a significant upgrading of the amount of work carried out on the international plane, and that it is essential that the quality and professionalism of this work is maintained.

A logical consequence therefore is that such an international organisation must have adequate resources and worker-time to enable it to establish and maintain an effective co-ordination bureau. An urgent next step following on from the launch of this partnership is therefore securing the funding, from sources within football and from governments national and international, to allow our efforts to develop.

Football Supporters’ Association
England

Koordinationsstelle Fan-projekte
Germany

Progetto Ultra
Italy

Eurosupport
Netherlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 www.footballsupporters.info

Copyrights by Euro Support