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.
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.
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
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
- 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
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.
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
- Relations with
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.