Over the past few weeks, we’ve published a series of interviews with representatives from national and continental supporters’ organisations.
This week, James spoke to Ronan Evain from Football Supporters Europe (FSE).
Can you tell us a bit about FSE?
"FSE can trace its roots back to Football Supporters International, a collaboration by national fans’ organisations to provide information and support services to fans of national teams at international tournaments.
"But the real story of FSE as it now exists - as a democratic, membership-based organisation - began in July 2008, when the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) hosted the first European Football Fans’ Congress (EFFC) in London.
"This meeting, which was held at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, focused on issues which affected fans from across the continent, and gave impetus to the development of a cross-national network.
"The following year, in Hamburg, the second fans’ congress was held, with workshops and strategy meetings on issues such as discrimination, policing, ticket pricing and commercialisation. During this congress, the decision was taken to adopt statutes and establish a formal network.
"Membership was made open to fans as individuals, as well as to fans’ groups organised at local - i.e. HTSA - or national levels - i.e. FSF - and democratic elections were held to appoint a committee. The first Europe-wide campaigning activities were launched, and in a significant milestone, FSE was recognised by UEFA as their European dialogue partner on fans’ issues."
What issues and campaigns do FSE focus on?
"Over the years, FSE has run many campaigns and projects, focusing predominately on three briefs: defending the fundamental rights of all football fans, promoting a positive fan culture, and ensuring that the views of football fans are taken into consideration by other football stakeholders."
Is there a common theme when you talk to supporters from different countries?
"We are focusing on two different topics for the 2017-2019 cycle: away fans’ rights and safe standing.
"Everywhere you go, away fans are the most vulnerable group of supporters. Whether you travel for a domestic or an international game, away fans rarely have a proper interlocutor or a channel to make sure their rights are respected. Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) have, of course, drastically improved the situation, but there is still a lot to do in terms of provision of infrastructure and information.
"That’s why we launched our Away Fans at European Competitions Survey, in order to get a better understanding of the many challenges that football supporters face when travelling abroad to follow their team in the Champions League (UCL) and Europa League (UEL).
"As for safe standing, this is also a European-wide issue, because fans are at the sharp end of the all-seater requirement for UCL and UEL fixtures (lower attendances, higher ticket prices etc.).
"Safe standing areas have recently been introduced at clubs such as Celtic FC and Ajax Amsterdam, and fans are campaigning for it in countries such as England and France, where it is currently forbidden. The ‘Stand Up For Town’ campaign is a good example of this."
What would you say is FSE’s biggest achievement over the past decade or so?
"We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next year, so I would say that the creation of a representative, democratic and transparent network of European football fans recognised by all major football and institutional stakeholders on the European level - UEFA, Council of Europe, European Union, etc. - is a pretty big achievement!"
How can people get involved with the FSE?
"They can start by joining our organisation via its website www.fanseurope.org . Membership is open to all fans so long as they commit to our core principles of anti-discrimination, rejection of violence, empowerment of fans, promotion of fair play and good governance.
"We welcome all people to get involved, join one of our working groups, help us with communication or research, support the organisation of the EFFC, and so on.