The Fans' Embassy concept can be traced back to services provided for supporters of the England and Germany teams at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and has evolved through subsequent tournaments. The implementation of preventive and social measures as well as offering structural support for travelling supporters at international tournaments are the main concepts of the Fans' Embassy.
These have proven to be valuable and significant additions to the conventional security measures during all major football events in the past 20 years. However, for a long period, policing actions and repressive regulatory policies were considered the only way to treat fans in most European countries and during major tournaments. Particularly since massive riots in the 80s, a change of this point of view has started. This development meanwhile has led to a more wide-spread and common reconsideration of (mis)behaviour amongst spectators from different perspectives. This has been put down in writing in the recommendations on prevention of violence in sport, published by the Council of Europe (Recommendation No. 1/2003):
"....such violence is part of a wider social phenomenon, which adversely affects genuine law-abiding supporters and local residents that an integrated approach is needed to counter it".
Within this development concepts of a proactive socio-preventive supporters' work have been established in the field in several European countries, particularly in England and Germany.
• The English model - by fans, for fans
On the English side, the Fans' Embassy service began as a lobbying and self-empowerment initiative taken by the Football Supporters' Association (now known as the Football Supporters' Federation - FSF), a membership based campaigning body made up of ordinary football supporters and independent of both football and governmental authorities. The English Fans' Embassy service enjoys a good reputation for reliability among England's travelling supporters for its consistency, and also because it is a service run by supporters for supporters. This generates a feeling among fans that the service is "on their side". The FSF runs Fans' Embassies at every England game in order to guarantee consistency of their service and as a confidence-building measure for the English supporters. Moreover, the FSF publishes a "Free Lions" fanzine at each game.
• The German model – professional fan workers
Similarly, the service operated by the German fan workers is delivered by individuals known to and trusted by the supporter groups. However, the German Fans' Embassy is provided by trained social workers engaged at various club-based fan projects, primarily involved in work among local supporter groups. Since the 1990 World Cup professional fan workers have also been travelling with the German national team fans and fan clubs. The German Fans' Embassies are run by KOS, the coordinating office of more than 40 club-based German fan projects.
• The result? A common approach
It is significant and interesting to note that despite the very different starting points of the people involved from the two countries, the parallel development of the Fans' Embassy services each initiative provided resulted in remarkably similar working practices. This commonality of experiences and conclusions about methodology shared by the two longest-standing and most successful practitioners in the field allows us to speak with some authority about a tried and tested best practice model.
From FSI to FSE
To push the further development of the Fans' Embassies and to improve and establish the work on a common network basis in Europe, practitioners and organisations in the field founded the Football Supporters International (FSI) network in 2001. FSI was initially set up by the FSF from England and Germany's KOS, along with organisations from Italy and the Netherlands. FSI was later officially funded to set up Fans' Embassies at the UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal.
At the World Cup 2006 an even larger number of FSI Fans' Embassy teams travelled to Germany to assist their supporters side by side with the newly introduced stationary Fans' Embassies. EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland provided the network with the possibility of further developing its work, increasing the number of mobile teams and officially running the programme from the very start with the necessary funding from UEFA. FSI members helped to continuously professionalise the approach and concepts and established new Fans' Embassies all around Europe.
In 2008, the organisations then members of the core group of FSI decided that it was the right time to turn the network into something different, namely a much needed representative voice for all football fans across Europe. The Fans' Embassies, still one of the most important areas of work for the network, have subsequently become an On-Topic Division of the denomination change, from FSI to FSE, reflected a profound change in nature: nowadays FSE is a democratically structured European network representing fan groups and organisations from the whole continent, dealing with many different issues and topics.
FSE, connected to the broader organisation but autonomous as regards its funding and daily work, with members from 16 countries: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Wales.