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FSA Cymru update: June 2022

Welcome to FSA Cymru’s June update from Paul Corkrey which looks ahead to Wales’s first World Cup since 1958 and all that entails for fans following the team to Qatar…

Welcome to our June edition of the FSA Cymru newsletter, and yes, we have qualified for the World cup after 64 years of heartache. There is a lot of work ahead for us at the Fans’ Embassy and we will be working alongside the German and English Fans Embassies at the tournament as well as sharing relevant information leading up to it.

We also work closely with our staff and colleagues at the FSA, we have our own website page where you can keep up with our latest meetings with the FAW and our handy fan guides to away matches. We are also looking to produce something soon for our women’s international team and their followers who travel abroad.

We will produce a Qatar newsletter in the Autumn, and in the interim, we will be gathering and sharing information via Twitter account @WeAreFSACymru, so please retweet any useful info to your friends and families.

We made a preparatory visit last December with the European fan organisation Football Supporters Europe (FSE). Our next planned visit is July 4th when the FAW security will also be in Qatar, and we have planned visits with the Qatar supreme committee who are overseeing the World cup.

Preparatory meetings are also taking place with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development office (FCDO). We work with them at all matches and this relationship will be very helpful for Qatar. The FCDO’s Ben Warrington Head is our main contact for the tournament.

Massive congratulations must go to everyone at the FAW who all have contributed in some way to the success of the national teams during these halcyon days of Welsh football. Noel Mooney the new CEO has begun his role at some pace and whilst changes are already taking place behind the scenes there are very ambitious plans being made to take Welsh football forward into the future.

Grassroots facilities are high on the agenda and qualifying for the World cup will increase finances for the FAW to start implementing their plans and we have already seen grants being delivered around Wales to local football clubs that will improve facilities in these communities.

Planning ahead

As always our advice is do not book anything until you are sure of getting a match ticket. You will need that to enter Qatar – wonky sheep are offering full refund if you are unsuccessful in getting a ticket.

As of 4pm on Monday 20th June we are now aware of the process to acquire World cup tickets in Qatar. Please follow the instructions carefully.

Although you will never please everyone with ticket criteria, we fully support the way it was done, with home and away loyalty included.

The attendance at Euro 2020 could not be in the calculations as tickets were through UEFA and many fans followed the government guidance to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UEFA Nations League review

Getting promoted to the top echelons of European football is something we can all be proud of, plus it has created a pathway to qualify for the World Cup by way of the play-offs in that unforgettable night in Cardiff against a brave Ukrainian side and their incredible fans.

The downside was we had five games to play in a very hot June, at the end of a long season with a World Cup final playoff thrown in for good measure.

We had a squad full of young players, mixed in with experience and a whole lot of quality and after an amazing 20 days of football we somehow find ourselves at the bottom of the table despite playing some fantastic football.

We won the game that mattered of course and nearly 90,000 people attended the three home games at the Cardiff City stadium this month. Even more incredible is the fact that nearly 5,000 red wall members made the trips to Wroclaw and Rotterdam during this period.

What fantastic ambassadors they were too – singing, chanting, making friends, and leaving a great impression behind them.

The upshot of all this is that we still have an excellent chance of staying at this level, but we must beat Poland at home for a chance of finishing third and avoiding relegation

Poland & Rotterdam: FSA Cymru Fans’ Embassy update

For the Poland game we took nearly 2,000 fans – it was estimated several hundred more travelled without tickets and watched the game in many bars around Wroclaw.

We had three FSA Fans’ Embassy staff working for the four days and with the number of changes we had already dealt with there was additional misinformation sent out to all fans from the Polish FA about transport to and from the game.

When we saw this, we contacted the Polish FA and found that it was incorrect and it was amended, however many fans did not see the update and we were extremely busy.

On match day there was a tram that broke down, a car incident on the main road to the stadium which caused a bit of chaos with fan’s desperately trying to get to the game. At kick off there were still many fans not in the stadium. By the 20th minute both sets of fans were in the ground

One passport got misplaced, thankfully this was found and handed in to us, we got the passport back in time for the supporter’s flight. We had three fans taken to hospital, our medic sent two fans into hospital, a broken arm, and a dislocated shoulder. The other admission was two days after the match with another broken arm.

This was one of the busiest games we have had for a while, with many flight delays, cancellations, issues on the trams and roads but the vast majority of fans had a great time and despite the result all agreed it was a great effort by the players and a city well worth visiting.

Our final game of a manic June saw us make the short trip to Rotterdam, with our Fans’ Embassy team using our van for the ten hour road trip. We estimated 2,500 Welsh fans had tickets and quite a few more who didn’t but still went anyway to enjoy the atmosphere.

The stadium was the iconic De Kuip, home of Feyenoord, built in 1937, it truly was one of the best in the world at one stage, but time has taken its toll and it became an issue for some Welsh fans.

There was no lift to the upper section. There are 12 flights of stairs, 78 steps to the upper level. Then an additional flight and 27 steps to the very back row of each section. We had blocks EE, FF, GG and HH with the last two accessed up the same steps.

Each section was sectioned off with fencing or partitions and we made sure everyone went up the right stairway to avoid overcrowding, inexplicably, at the top gates were opened to allow fans to migrate to different sectors which then led to some areas becoming over capacity.

To compound things, we had agreed at the security meetings to remove the netting in front of our fans at the compromise of no alcohol at the top concessions – despite this agreement the stadium failed to provide any refreshments in the large concourses on the ground floor, forcing everyone up to the small areas at the top of the steps and allowing drinks into the seated area. At the end of the game some of these drinks were thrown indiscriminately down on to the Dutch fans below.

Quite a few fans had struggled walking from the train station to the concourses and the steps proved too much for some, but the Fans’ Embassy managed to get around 20 of them into the ground floor disabled areas.

On the plus side, it was an incredible game and atmosphere despite the last-minute heartache and despite everything all of the fans seemed to have a great time and happily mixed, sung, and drank with the local supporters.

Cymru Disabled Supporters Association (DSA)

DSAs are a user-led disabled representative group that aim to have a unifying voice to raise awareness for their fellow disabled fans. Supporters from Cardiff, Wrexham, Newport, Swansea, and other clubs are all represented on the Cymru DSA committee. The DSA attend all home and away Wales mens’ internationals and at all games we have one of our committee members sorting out any issues around access or other disability issues.

DSA reps attend FAW- FSA Cymru meetings four times per year highlighting any issues that have arisen at any of the games attended. FSA Cymru work closely with the DSA and FSE and have recently started liaising with Wal Goch y Menywod “Women’s Red Wall” – helping them start up a Women’s Fans’ Embassy for the women’s game.

We encourage anyone with a disability to join their league club DSA to have their say.

Cymru DSA & Qatar 2022

Despite many countries’ objections and concerns about the World Cup hosts, Cymru DSA will be in Qatar for the duration of Wales’s Tournament.

The DSA Chair was in a meeting last month with the FSA, FAW, FIFA and Qatar Supreme Committee and had a detailed presentation for the tournament.

Qatar is aiming to ensure an accessible experience for all fans during the tournament. There are to be drop-off and pick-up points at all stadiums in order to support disabled fans.

There are currently 37 stations on the Doha Metro, which fans will use to travel between accommodation, all of which are wheelchair accessible.

New Kop – Wrexham

FSA Cymru fully supports the campaign to improve facilities, including a new Kop end at Wrexham.

The Racecourse is the oldest international venue in the world and deserves to hold top level games again. Everyone old enough will remember the fantastic atmospheres created at the iconic stadium and a new generation of fans should have the opportunity to experience that.

Red Wall Clothing

People try to copy it but if you are after quality and all about supporting fellow Welsh fans then you know where you need to buy your merchandise. SO58 is genuine clothing for all the red wall members. Tim Williams has built the brand on reputation and it’s what you will seen in this winter in Qatar or here in Wales cheering on the lads at the World Cup.

Haley is a Welsh fan who created FE Wales, they stock quality merchandise primarily for the women and girls of the Red Wall, feWales has a range of t-shirts, hoodies, and accessories, whether you’re supporting the men’s or women’s national sides.

And our Rainbow Wall has recently produced bucket hats which are now available to order by sending an email to [email protected]

Atmosphere

The atmosphere at home games during this June International window has been described as the best seen throughout Europe and the Red Wall has been incredible. At away games the same accolades have been given to our fans and we should all be very proud of the impression we have left on our travels.

One issue that has cropped up is the policing in the city centre which we will bring up at our next meeting and we also have seen some fans facing banning orders or criminal charges for the use of pyro at games. One fan was hit by one in the Canton stand and his coat caught fire but luckily, he was not injured.

FSA caseworker Amanda Jacks wrote an article about the use of pyro and the law – it’s worth a read.

The Welsh police, FAW and officials at the Cardiff City stadium have a zero-tolerance policy with regards to pyro and in all cases banning procedures will take place. In the majority of these cases criminal charges will be made by the police. It’s simply not worth it.

And finally…

Back to Qatar, it’s very exciting but also a very expensive venture that unfortunately will be out of reach for many of our members. We estimated the costs could be up to £5,000 a person but that depends on so many factors.

Official FAW travel partners Wonky Sheep, have put out some very competitive prices for the first three games and there has been a very healthy take up in the first two days. Unfortunately, we believe a lot of fans still won’t be able to afford to go, which is such a shame.

Every fan who goes to Qatar should sign up to the emails from the Foreign and Commonwealth Development office (FCDO), this is our core work as a Fans’ Embassy and we can help fans understand how to use the British embassy if they run into difficulties but please use this website to familiarise yourself with everything. You will also get some great updated information.

We are a fan’s organisation and want to support every supporter that travels to Qatar. Many supporters will not go through for very valid reasons, and we support their points of view too.

FAW CEO Noel Mooney addressed some of these questions back in November before we qualified and here is that report.

For now then keep following us on @WeAreFSACymru

And have a great summer!

Corky and the FSA Cymru Fans’ Embassy team

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