UEFA has met with representatives of supporters' groups at the House of European Football in Nyon, continuing the crucial dialogue between the continental governing body and fans with the overall good health of football in mind.
UEFA was represented at the meeting, which is held every year, by President Michel Platini, General Secretary Gianni Infantino, adviser to the UEFA President William Gaillard 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 of whom receive specific UEFA backing and recognition. This was the sixth such meeting between UEFA and the fan groups.
"In this day and age, supporters are increasingly becoming the identity of football," Michel Platini told the gathering. "The fans are always there, irrespective of whether things are going well or badly at a club. They are always in the stadiums. They are the true soul of the game, and I welcome the fact that UEFA and the fans are working together and informing each other about what we are doing."
Mr Platini urged fans to make their contribution to raising awareness of, and combating, negative phenomena within the game. "Neither supporters nor UEFA can clear football of all its ills," the UEFA President said. "If I take match-fixing, it should not be the role of supporters to address this. Match-fixing touches the players, the heart of our game, as they affect the results of the matches on the field of play. We have to have a zero-tolerance policy on this matter, and any player found fixing a match must be removed from our game as quickly as possible.
"But around the field of play, supporters have a key role – namely to protect what happens on the field of play," Mr Platini added. "I count on you, the supporters and your organisations, to help to manage security matters and other issues in the stands, particularly related to racist behaviour. We need to eradicate these issues to help us protect football."
The Football Supporters Europe network is an independent grassroots network, which currently has members in 42 countries. It provides a representative voice on issues such as ticketing, fan culture, discrimination and policing in football. At UEFA EURO 2012, FSE coordinated the fan embassy project in the eight host cities in Poland and Ukraine, helping to nurture a positive fan atmosphere at the tournament.
Supporters Direct promotes supporter and community engagement and helps fan groups to secure influence and become a constructive voice in how clubs are run. Supporters Direct operates in more than 20 European countries in football and other sports, and in particular has been working with UEFA on the appointment of supporter liaison officers at clubs across the continent as a UEFA licensing requirement designed to reinforce relations between clubs and their followers.
CAFE works with stakeholders throughout Europe towards improving the matchday experience for disabled European football supporters. CAFE cooperates closely with UEFA and its 53 member associations, plus clubs, national and local disabled supporters groups, national disability NGOs and supporter networks. CAFE was also the official tournament charity at last summer's EURO final round in Poland and Ukraine, and UEFA and CAFE collaborated on various initiatives as part of the championship's Respect Inclusion project. 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.
The three supporters' groups presented their various activities as well as current and future projects. They welcomed the progress made in the continuous dialogue with UEFA, and proposed various measures for improvement. Club licensing, financial fair play, match-fixing, ticketing and disciplinary issues were also discussed, among other things, along with UEFA's recent decision to stage the UEFA EURO 2020 finals around Europe – which will give fans the opportunity to fully participate in a football festival in 13 cities across the continent. Decisions about the host cities will be based on infrastructure – airports and hotels – for supporters, and not merely on the size of the stadiums.
UEFA assured the fan groups of its full commitment to hearing and understanding the opinions and needs of football fans. It thanked the groups for their unstinting efforts on behalf of supporters all over Europe – work which has the game's well-being at its heart.
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