UEFA meets with fan groups
UEFA has held its latest meeting with representatives of supporters' groups and has emphasised the crucial contribution that fans make to ensuring football's enduring popularity.
The annual meeting at the House of European Football in Nyon has become an important fixture on the UEFA calendar. The gathering acts as a consultative platform in which the supporters' groups put forward their views, UEFA listens and responds while also giving crucial advice, and both sides take away proposals and ideas for further deliberation at various levels – all with the overall benefit of European football and its fans in mind.
UEFA was represented at the seventh such meeting by President Michel Platini, UEFA Executive Committee member Peter Gilliéron, Deputy General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis and members of the UEFA administration. Supporters' groups were represented by Football Supporters Europe (FSE), Supporters Direct (SD) Europe and the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE). All three fan bodies receive specific UEFA backing and recognition.
UEFA understands that supporters are the lifeblood of the game – a fact outlined by Mr Platini, who welcomed the commitment of both UEFA and the fan groups to reach mutual understanding on a broad palette of issues. "Supporters are part of the football family, and I am very happy that we can talk together," he said. "Fans are as important as the ball and the players. If there is no ball, or no players, it would be difficult to play football – and without supporters, it would not be very nice to play in empty stadiums."
The Football Supporters Europe network is an independent, representative and democratically organised grassroots network of fans in Europe with members in 42 countries across the continent. Its work includes contributing to campaigns against violence, promoting the activities of grassroots fans and helping nurture a positive fan culture, along with key positive values such as fair play and good governance.
Supporters Direct represents over 180 supporters' trusts and similar organisations throughout Europe, and numbers more than 400,000 members. It promotes the value of supporter and community involvement in the ownership and running of clubs, enabling fans to become a constructive voice in how their club is run. The body has been working with UEFA on the appointment of supporter liaison officers at clubs around the continent – this is a UEFA licensing requirement aimed at strengthening relations between clubs and their fans.
CAFE works with stakeholders across Europe towards improving the matchday experience for disabled supporters, working in partnership with UEFA and its member associations, as well as clubs, national and local disabled supporters groups, national disability NGOs and supporter networks. CAFE has also produced a joint document with UEFA, entitled Access for All – a Good Practice Guide to Creating an Accessible Stadium and Matchday Experience.
As is customary, the three supporters' organisations presented their activities and looked ahead to future work, in particular as part of their cooperation with UEFA. Topics ranged from fan arrangements for club competition finals, access plans for disabled fans at the two matches, entrance guidelines for spectators, travel issues for away fans and the results of projects funded by UEFA and the European Commission.
All three bodies expressed their thanks to UEFA for its positive attitude towards their work, while UEFA reiterated its viewpoint that the dialogue that had been established was an essential component of the relationship. Fans and their representatives are needed to help fashion football's future, and provide invaluable ideas as part of the process.