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European fans rally to “Save Fan Culture”

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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Football Supporters Europe (FSE) is appealing for football fans across Europe to stand up and support its Save Fan Culture campaign. The pan-European supporters’ body, of which the Football Supporters’ Federation is an affiliate member, is calling on fans from across the continent to come together to tackle issues such as over-zealous policing and over the top match bans.

Save Fan Culture
runs over a three week period from Tuesday 26th April to Monday 16th May and FSE are encouraging supporters to produce banners and leaflets at their club in support of the campaign. You can download website banners and logos for use on your website, in your fanzine, or banner from FSE’s site here.

One of the main aims of FSE’s days of action is to draw fans’ general opposition to football ID cards to the attention of clubs, leagues, and FAs across the continent. While the idea of ID cards might seem anachronistic in the UK they are used in countries such as Italy and the Netherlands. FSE also says that more respect should be given to fans’ ability to self-police, especially inside stadiums, arguing that increased responsibility will encourage better behaviour.

A fairly common complaint among football fans and political protesters in the UK is that police officers’ identities are too often concealed in heated situations. This means an officer who lashes out – legitimately or not – cannot be identified and properly investigated. FSE calls upon the authorities to require all police officers to clearly display their individual ID numbers at all times.

FSE also wants to see the introduction of transparent, proportional, and consistent regulations regarding the use of flags, banners, and “tifo” inside stadiums. While clubs’ PR departments often use images of passionate fans waving flags on their promotional literature ground regulations and stewards often view things differently. In the UK it is common to hear of clubs using health and safety as an excuse to ban flag poles in excess of seemingly arbitrary lengths, or banners which haven’t been made fire retardant.

“Excessive and disproportionate use of force, unjust arrests, banned flags or banners for no transparent reason, arbitrary stadium ban procedures and worst of all, punishment of entire sets of fans for the wrongdoing of mostly a tiny minority of individuals – many experience it on a regular basis, some at every away match, and others just at their home matches,” said Michal Riecansky of FSE.

“All around Europe, new and stricter regulations are being implemented or considered while thousands of fans are being given stadium bans every year, often without evidence. We, as football supporters, want to enjoy matches and support our club in a free, hospitable and passionate atmosphere. If we are listened to and considered, we are part of the solution, not the problem. Let’s show them how colourful the fan culture is that they risk losing.”

The FSF has heard from hundreds of supporters over the past few years who have been unhappy with police tactics. Possibly the largest, and most well known example, was that of the 80 or so Stoke fans wrongly served with Section 27 orders in November 2008. Greater Manchester Police eventually paid out around £200,000 in compensation including £2,750 to Potters’ fan Lyndon Edwards who initially brought the case to the FSF’s attention.

More recently the FSF heard from 17-year-old Manchester City fan Alex Blood who was ejected from the City of Manchester Stadium after being accused of smoking. Alex maintains he does not, and has never, smoked but nonetheless found himself with a three-match stadium ban. Incidents such as these are instructive of the problems often faced by supporters – police who treat fans as one homogenous group and clubs unwilling to listen to the individual fan’s side of the story if it contradicts that given to them by stewards.  

If you have a policing or stewarding query, please contact the FSF’s Amanda Jacks who deals with these issues. 

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