As My Old Man Said (MOMS) considers the ambition of Aston Villa Football Club to be European football, we’ve been a card-carrying member of the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) organisation for a couple of years now (as well as being an active member of the Football Supporters Federation (FSF).
The FSE dropped its members including MOMS, a message about their recent meeting this week with UEFA, including Michael Platini. While noting positive results on various issues, they said a ‘huge argument’ broke out about the penalising of all a club’s fans due to the actions of individuals or a small group, like with issues of racism, pitch invasions or fighting, for example.
UEFA prefer ‘mass punishments’ i.e. the playing of games behind closed doors or banning of away fans, while the FSE argued for more selective punishments aimed at those who commit the actual crimes rather than making all fans of a certain team take the rap and suffer as a result.
Funnily enough, Villa fans saw this UEFA-like mentality with the BBC commentary of the Villa FA Cup quarter-final, where every man, woman and kid who came on the Villa Park pitch after the final whistle was inferred to be an idiot or a hooligan by the BBC commentators.
Anyway, below is the FSE’s statement in full, which we thought was worth publishing to show how the battle to get sense on supporter issues extends to the whole of Europe.
UEFA ignores negative effects of collective punishments in annual meeting with fans
On 16 March, the annual meeting of the FSE Committee with UEFA took place, together with our partners Supporters Direct Europe and Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE). Whilst progress was made and joint actions were discussed with regards to nominative ticket schemes and travel restrictions, we had to register that UEFA was still unwilling to move even an inch in its position on collective punishments of fans.
UEFA continues to show no understanding for the fact that punishing fans that haven’t done anything wrong whatsoever, is unjust, doesn’t meet judicial principles and is hence counter-productive to motivating fans in the important commitment against racism. The more than justified complaints of supporter groups from Bayern, Manchester City or Northern Ireland, amongst others, that were presented by FSE Committee members in the meeting, didn’t change this. These cases refer in particular to the situation of innocent away supporters who are punished for the behaviour of usually a minority of fans, and crucially of fans of the other club, and till today haven’t even been compensated for their expenses relating to tickets, travel and accommodation.
UEFA thereby imposes the biggest negative impact on fans who have had no involvement in the racist incidents and who in some cases have even engaged in activities against discrimination themselves as supporters.
The FSE Committee is therefore unable to understand the statement of UEFA that this system of mass punishments has been a success. That this isn’t the case is not only shown by the fact that some of the same clubs still repeatedly receive sanctions for racist conduct of fans, but also by the European protest campaign “#Respect Fans” against these measures which has been joined by major non-racist supporter groups from more than 15 clubs playing in European club competitions this season. This clearly illustrates that the sanction logic of UEFA is by no means effective but has to be seen as unsustainable, wrong and unfair. The FSE Committee explicitly supports these protests and calls for fans to condemn the imposition of collective punishments on fans innocent of any offences, and to intensify these protests where appropriate.
We urge UEFA to recognise and address fans’ concerns on this integral issue, as otherwise we fear a continued radicalisation of the wider fan movement as a reaction to this position. This cannot be in anybody’s interest. Despite our great disappointment about the outcome of this meeting, FSE therefore remains ready for dialogue with UEFA, but only if this dialogue is characterised by an honest intention and true will to eradicate the current injustices in this system.
UEFA news story on meeting
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