Football Supporters Europe’s Virtual Summer Network Meeting: A Brief Summary

Date: 20th August 2020

On the 24th of July 2020, the SFSA attended the FSE summer network meeting alongside more than 50 representatives from over 20 fan groups across Europe and beyond. The 3-hour event hosted discussions from a variety of topics and issues with several speakers.

The meeting highlighted key issues and the impact of Coronavirus across Europe, both on and off the pitch and how the situation is being handled across the continent

The first session was dedicated to the situation on Denmark and relation to football returning in the North of Europe. Sarah Agerklint from national supporters’ organisation Danske Fodboldfans (DFF), provided analysis of the current situation for clubs in Denmark and how fans and their governing bodies have responded. Protocols were introduced early and there has been a strong desire for fans to be allowed back in the stadium, which is now permitted with limited numbers and no away support.

Like most European nations, there is a passionate group of supporters and an “Ultra” culture in Denmark. However, the flare lighting and banner waving actions have been halted and the atmosphere is not what is once was.

Anja Lilli Beikes and David Knudsen informed guests about the particular experience of AGF Aarhus fans, providing an overview of what it is like to be a football fan in Denmark. There have been a few problems with fans meeting outside the stadium and some fans are not happy with the process In which fans are allocated tickets. Many of the tickets are also provided to sponsors and corporate partners. Despite some fans not being happy, many respect the decisions being made.

Søren Højlund Carlsen, the club’s communication director, spoke passionately about the game in Denmark and how important fans are to the game. Søren reflected on how many fans miss the sense of community and comradery. He also spoke on how fans should come before the commercial aspect of football and it is fans that are at the heart of the game –  A sentiment we strongly support. Søren also reflected on the challenges of implementing social distancing rules within stadia and how the process of entering and leaving the stadium has changed.

The return to stadia across Europe

We also heard from guests representing a number of fan organisation such as Malcom Clarke from the Football Supporters Association in England, Markus Sotirianos from Unsere Kurve in Germany, Niamh O’Mahony from the Irish Supporters Network and Pierre Barthélemy form ANS in France.

Each speaker highlighted the key issues from their respective nation and how the governing bodies are handling the situation. They also gave their views on how well the football authorities have adapted and responded to the outbreak. They provided the feedback from fans and what fans are currently experiencing.

A few key points to highlight:

England

  • The UK Government has sent up 4 test events for fans, none of which include football events.
  • The English central authorities wont go near ticket allocation and will be left to local levels.
  • The Sports ground safety authority (SGSA) have written protocols for fans. Capacity will vary on 15-40%.
  • Decisions at local level under committees – safety advisory groups. Encouraged to work with fans groups.

Germany

  • Before lockdown there was tension in the Bundesliga. Fans were not happy with the flexibility of the “50+1” rule in which fans should own the majority of shares. This has now been changed to allow financial backers who have supported the club over a long period of time to gain majority shares. Diemtar Hopp, the owner and financial backer of Hoffenheim is seen as problem for German football, as his money can be attributed to the success of Hoffenheim.
  • Fans are also against the use of fake fan sounds, which have been suggested as an alternative during covid.

France

  • Until the 31st of August, only 5000 fans are permitted in the stadium.
  • There was a push to allow away fans back inside the stadium.
  • There was a misconception that fans wanted the season to end early which is false.
  • There are still questions regarding public transport for fans on matchday.

ROI

  • The season in Ireland was only 5 games in before being suspended.
  • Not much commercial interest for the game in Ireland making the financial situation more difficult.
  • A survey showed that fans were worried about returning to stadia but didn’t want clubs to go under.
  • The National association will have to fund clubs despite being previously bailed out.

FSE Projects

There was also time to discuss the impact on the current projects that were taking place before Covid struck. Projects such as the “Fan.tastic Females” exhibition, “OUT!”, as well as others have had to adapt and find other ways to be presented.

The Fan Embassies, which were planned to help fans in cities across Europe for the 2020 Euros have been pushed back to next year with the team giving us a brief update into the progress and adjustments.

More info on the FSE’s projects can be found on their website:

https://www.fanseurope.org/en/

The SFSA would like to thank FSE for hosting the event and all the speakers who were involved. We look forward to the next event!


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