In the framework of the 8th European Football Fan Congress in Belfast the FSE Fans’ Embassy division organised a high profile panel discussion with representatives of UEFA and the French authorities
to discuss the status quo of preparation and the plans for the fan service at EURO 2016 in France. On the panel were the moderator Tommy Gassler from Austria, Director of FSE Fans’ Embassy division, Ronan Evain FSE Fans’ Embassy project coordinator, Medhi Tazraret head of FSE Fans’ Embassy both from France, Patrick Gasser, UEFA football and social responsibility from Switzerland, Patrick Wincke, from the Ministry of Sport France and Antoine Boutonnet from the French Home Office.
Tommy Gassler opened the meeting by welcoming the 45 delegates who were in attendance and explained how the workshop would be presented and introduced the honoured guest speakers. It was also noted that live blogging of the meeting would be taking place.
A tournament of superlatives
A brief overview was given explaining that the tournament would have many superlatives compared to past Euro tournaments including the facts that it will contain 24 finalists, with 51 games played over 31 days. One month of games at ten venues with a capacity of 2.5 million seats.
The way the tournament is planned would see 6 games in a group taking place in 6 different cities meaning many challenges would face the fan embassy teams and of course the travelling fans. These would involve travel, accommodation time off work and co ordination with host cities, police, French ministry all other partners and volunteers.
UEFA respects (disabled) fans, health and the environment
Patrick Gasser from UEFA football and social responsibility department was the first speaker and he produced a presentation. He talked about sustainability and how the fan embassies would be an integrated part of the tournament, both in the planning and during the tournament.
The format and plan of how the games would be set out were presented. He talked about the ticket launch and how there would be 4 different price bands for tickets in all the games with the disabled fans having access to the cheapest tickets 25 € (D band).
The 4 main areas would be:
1. Access Disabled in partnership with C.A.F.E.
To address all issues to do with disability and access
2. Respect in Partnership with FARE
Where reports will be produced after games are monitored by FARE staff to include control, disciplinary matters, crowd behaviour inside the stadiums
3. Respect fan culture in partnership with FSE fan embassies
The Fans’ Embassies aim to make a positive contribution towards the atmosphere at the tournament and enhance security and bring the expert knowledge to assist supporters in France.
Including Euro transport, mobility, consideration of environment and travel carbon compensation.
He advised that there would be “tobacco free” zones in all stadiums and all areas of the stadium including VIP this would be monitored with a balanced approach to enforce the non- smoking rules in the stadiums, this also includes Electronic cigarettes.
Concerns about travel and accommodation
He discussed fan zones, public transport, security, fan walks and the joint fan app guide that will be produced to assist supporters during the tournament
A brief question and answer session followed with fears expressed about transport and accommodation. Mr. Gasser said he believed there was ample provision in France but we believe many fans remain sceptical.
Terrorism and security were again discussed including the rules about flags and banners entering stadiums and it was stated that the usual UEFA guidelines would be implemented similar to qualifiers and they would look to weed out any offensive materials smuggled into stadia.
Fans’ Embassies at all EURO games
Ronan Evain and Medhi Tazraret gave a presentation of the work that has already taken place since September 2014 in the framework of the Respect Fan Culture project. They also presented the plan of action going forward for the fan embassies in readiness for Euro 2016.
Partnerships had already been built and many meetings had already happened with key partners, staff had been employed to co ordinate the project and all host cities had been visited with the concept explained to partners
It was hoped that up to 20 fan embassy initiatives would be in France to provide expertise and know how, by producing fan guides and maps, using social media and our own fan guide app, supported by volunteers and co-ordinating offices in each host city, All fan embassies would need to find funding to support their work from their own resources.
Ronan then explained and went through the proposed Fan embassy plans for each individual host city and the legacy that we hoped to leave behind, the same as at past tournaments.
Still missing: fan diologue in France
Patrick Wincke went on to say that a plan of action was in place to change the lack of fan dialogue and he hoped to establish a position and intervention at the ministry. Meetings are planned with interested parties and he welcomed the fan embassy activities in France. He is looking at working groups to produce EURO 2016 fan guides on line in different languages and it is hoped that the tournament can be used to improve the current position of French supporters and their lack of dialogue and connection with Sport bodies.
A think tank is proposed with input from the ministry and it is hoped to establish a recognised fan organisation at national level.
Antoine Boutonnet from the French police was next to speak and his presentation covered a lot of what had already been discussed but he added the security issues and measures including how safety zones would be set up around stadiums when fans enter matches and stadium searches and security plus the fact that there would be low level police officers working with stewards inside the stadium. Risk assessment will be a big part of planning to include stewarding, police, security and health and safety. The fan zones would however be the responsibility of the host city mayors.
Police exchange welcomed
Questions were asked about the way the police perceived fans and if they start by seeing them as hooligans or fans and he replied that they were prepared to tackle hooliganism if it occurred.
The English and German fan reps both wanted to know if dialogue was possible in the months before the tournament that could involve the French police meeting foreign police with fan involvement and contribution at these meetings, we are hopeful he has taken that onboard but he did say that it was already decided that fan embassy staff would be included in the security meetings the day before games as was the case at the last tournament
He was finally asked about the tactics employed by the police when arresting fans and he said they had made mistakes at a recent game and took bad advice but have learnt from the bad experience that ended up in a near riot in Lille due to bad decision making.