With the impending return of spectators to stadia across the continent, Football Supporters Europe (FSE) is calling on clubs and match organisers to intensify and expand their cooperation with fans’ representatives on proposed health safety protocols and other operational measures.
Such consultation is the only effective means of ensuring a safe, straightforward, and enjoyable matchday experience for all. Moreover, it serves as an important part of our common response to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The data suggest that meaningful dialogue between fans and organisers builds trust by providing both with a better understanding of one another’s expectations. It also allows them to establish clear lines of communication to resolve any issues that might arise before, during, or after games.
As FSE’s report on the 2020 UEFA Super Cup concluded, this is particularly important in the current environment, which, with its overlapping layers of ever-changing rules, regulations, and guidelines, presents multiple opportunities for miscommunication, misinterpretation, and general confusion. This view is shared by the Council of Europe T-RV Committee and T-S4 Committee, which recommend that:
“Supporters and supporter organisations should be further involved in all the stages of the decision-making process of public health and security authorities and football bodies, namely as regards the restrictions put in place to preserve health and security during the crisis and on the return to ‘new normal’. The engagement of supporters in all stages of the organisation of a sporting event increases the legitimacy of the restrictive measures and their understanding, therefore reinforcing the confidence of supporters and their consented compliance of rules.”
To this end, FSE is currently involved in discussions and observation visits related to return to stadia protocols in several countries. We hope to share good practice guidelines in the coming weeks and months, including examples from England and France.
There has been much talk over the past year about the importance of fans and how the game is nothing without them. FSE agrees. Fans are major stakeholders with their own representative and democratic organisations. They should be treated as such. This means involving them in discussions around return to stadia protocols at every level of the game.