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FSA Cymru update: February 2020

We’re happy to present to FSA Cymru members our first newsletter of 2020.

This spring and summer, our newsletters will focus mainly on the build-up to Euro 2020 but no doubt there will be other news along the way that affects Welsh football supporters.

As always, we’ve provided a host of useful information in both English at Welsh, so check the links below to read in your preferred language.

In February’s newsletter, we’ll be covering:

– Baku & Rome: venues confirmed
– Problems in Azerbaijan
– Upcoming friendly matches
– Football Supporters Europe fan survey

The first thing you should be aware of is the UEFA app that is available to download in the Apple store or through Google play on Android devices. There is loads of information on there that gets updated regularly and you can check out all the host cities, the venues, the fixtures and loads of interesting facts about the tournament.

Baku and Rome: two venues confirmed

We have started working on these two venues and have met up with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and their lead in London, Robert Lyndsey. He will be looking at the visa issues fans may have to deal with and all things to do with the government assisting home nation supporters throughout the tournament.

We have been to Frankfurt to meet up with the core group for the Fans’ Embassy teams qualified for the tournament, we expect the number of Fans’ Embassy teams to number around 20 and with that in mind there will be two full time coordinators in place up until next September funded by UEFA, Ingo Petz from Germany and Matthew Willis from England. They will visit every host cities and get them prepared for the fan Embassy teams who will be visiting, as well as providing loads of up to date information throughout the coming months.

We have also held a preliminary meeting with the FAW to discuss the Euros and we will be having a fuller, more detailed meeting at the end of February. Baku and Rome are easier to plan because of the time we have to do it but if we top our group we then go to London, if we come second we go to Amsterdam but if we qualify third we could end up in Bilbao, Bucharest or Glasgow and we will have less than a week to organise this, so may require help from the FAW.

Azerbaijan Problems

Since the draw was made many members have contacted us about the challenges of getting hotels and accommodation in Baku. There was a big increase in the cost of flights and accommodation around the dates we are there, something everyone expected and reluctantly accepted, because it’s become common practice in cities where big events are held, unfortunately.
Baku has become increasingly guilty of profiteering at the expense of the football fans wishing to visit the city to enjoy the tournament and many fans have even seen their plans ruined already as a consequence of this.

The worse cases have seen our members having money taken from their accounts and in some cases their credit/debit cards being cloned, luckily, in the cases we are aware of, the banks have been very helpful and their fraud departments are involved but its stressful and many other supporters are now very vary about making bookings in Baku.

Many hotels took bookings in September and have since cancelled the bookings asking the fans to pay huge increases in order to keep the booking. Considering booking.com is one of the partners of the tournament, they have been less than helpful, we are still awaiting an official reply from them and have contacted their headquarters in Amsterdam.

As a supporter’s organisation there are only certain things we can do, however, we wanted to at least try to help, so we contacted the British Embassy in Baku, Football Supporters Europe (FSE), the press and our parent organisation the Football Supporters’ Association.

The media has been looking into the issue – a feature on BBC Wales news and the written press are investigating as we speak in relation to covering the story.

FSE has passed on the complaints to UEFA who asked to be made aware of countries raising prices considerably. The FSA have also said they will assist us whenever we require support and suggested we contact consumer rights agencies in the UK, and we have been strongly advised to tell members to book with credit cards rather than debit cards.
The British Embassy in Baku has been extremely helpful, this is part of the email they sent us:

“The lady I spoke with from the Tourism Agency (TA) was concerned about the cases you passed me and was tuned in to making sure the fans have an enjoyable and problem free visit to Baku, both while here and in preparing to come here (I mentioned there was media interest in these stories). I was gate-crashing a meeting that my trade colleagues were having anyway with the TA, so this particular individual was not leading on Euro 2020 but has already put in me touch with the individual who is and I’ll be following up with her as well about the credit card issues and overcharging. They’re keen to hear which hotels are doing this so I’ll pass on names of hotels (but not the names of the fans who have raised the issues).

“Issues I did mention were whether the TA are working with local hotels to ensure they get themselves on websites which Welsh fans are likely to be using to search for accommodation, as these might be different from ones which say visitors from Russia or Turkey use, who might be their more regular target audience. In this way it can increase the options for fans coming to visit and increase the competition between hotels (and hopefully lower prices). I made the point that hotels overcharging, will result in fewer fans coming which will hurt the rest of the tourism sector in Azerbaijan.”

Later the Embassy contacted us to say: “I’ve since been in touch with the Euro 2020 lead and we will meet at the end of January once she returns from her travels. She was equally concerned about the problems Welsh fans have had and will be raising your concerns with the Euro 2020 organising committee.”

Not great, we know that, but hopefully prices will start to become more affordable if pressure is put on the hotels.

Upcoming Friendlies

Four friendly matches will be played before the tournament, in the UEFA fixture agreements, two are now confirmed as Austria in Swansea and the USA in Cardiff.
The next two are still under negotiation but we believe one will be played on June 6th and its rumoured to be in Rotterdam but not confirmed. The last one may be played at the Welsh training camp somewhere in Portugal possibly, but again nothing confirmed on this one or who the possible opponents may be. Do not book anything yet!

The next FAW-FSA meeting is scheduled for 3pm Friday 21 February at the FAW Boardroom. We will publish the minutes and link them to our members newsletter.

Football Supporters Europe fan survey

You are all probably aware we ask members to complete a survey following trips to away games following Wales, the results of which are then passed on to UEFA. We now have the survey results from our last campaign in which over 300 of you contributed to the survey. The link to the survey can be found here.

Thanks for reading and if you have any queries email: paul.corkrey@thefsa.org.uk

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