Vienna – A two-day seminar by the international project pro supporters closed with a Round Table regarding fan issues and fan work in Austria at the ‘Haus des Sports‘ (‘House of Sport‘) on Tuesday. Representatives of fan projects, clubs, the UEFA, the Bundesliga, and the executive thereby committed to an intensified dialogue with football fans. Two manuals on fan work in Europe, which had been prepared in the context of the EU-project, were presented earlier on. pro supporters is a project funded by the EU and coordinated by the initiative FairPlay. Different Colours. One Game.
Recommendations for bilateral agreements between fans, clubs and associations are given and best practice-models introduced in the manual on »Supporters Charters in Europe«. »The manual does not provide a prefabricated instruction for cooperation but rather contains a flexible list of possibilities which have proven to be successful«, says Daniela Wurbs from the governing body Football Supporters Europe (FSE), which developed the 50-page brochure. UEFA-representative William Gaillard describes the manual, which will be available in German at the end of June, as an important step for the inclusion of fans in European club football. »I wish for a signing of common declarations by fans, clubs, associations, and leagues so that we can advance the process«.
Manual on Socio-Preventive Fan Work
The second manual on »Socio-Preventive Fan Work in Europe«, produced by pro supporters, was created on the basis of exchange between fan workers from Austria, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. It includes information regarding the different models and methods in the countries and was published in four languages. »It was very important that all participants met personally at the closing of the project. We wanted to encourage an international exchange between fan projects and possibly expand it to other countries«, said David Hudelist from pro supporters – Fan Work Coordination Austria.
In addition to the presentation of the two publications, workshops on fan-related issues and fan work, international networking and discussions with fan-relevant institutions were central points of the two-day meeting. Among the participants were – among others – representatives of the football Bundesliga, the executive, the Ministries for the Interior and Sports, the players union VdF, UEFA, the European Professional Football Leagues and the European Club Association as well as fan- and club-representatives of Austria Wien, SK Sturm Graz, Wacker Innsbruck, Vienna, Blau-Weiss Linz and St. Pölten.
Fan-dialogue as preventive measure
At a panel discussion on fan-dialogue and self-regulation of fan scenes, all participants stressed the importance of a permanent dialogue with fans, regardless of any conflicts that may arise. Maximilian Prinz from the Ministry for the Interior declared that the executive forces in Austria are trying to respond to concerns by fans, not least by the model of spotters. Thomas Gassler from pro supporters – Fan Work Coordination Austria stressed the need for fans to take responsibility and urged the clubs and associations to make better use of existing offers by fans to collaborate with them. In the final Round Table, all participants committed to a continuation and institutionalisation of this type of exchange. In the future, all fan-relevant decision makers in Austrian football should come together twice a year by the agency of pro supporters.
Thomas Gassler drew a positive conclusion after the seminar: »We presented two manuals and everybody, who worked on the project in the past 16 months, was present. I am very confident concerning the implementation of theory into practice. All parties have pointed out that they believe in it. I have been active in fan work on a national and international level for 14 years. During this time, fans have rarely been accepted by the institutions as equal partners as in this seminar«.
Round Tables as important tools
Pia Haschke from the Sports Ministry declared the Round Table on fans issues an »important tool« which, however, still needed a more detailed preparation of all involved. In her speech at the »Haus des Sports«, the representative of the Ministry made a commitment to socio-preventive work with fans. »That's why we support this project«, said Haschke, »a structured dialogue with the various representatives of football can help to prevent violence and racism«.
Alexander Schwärzler, fan representative of the Bundesliga, also sees the seminar and the work of pro supporters as a step in the right direction. »The meeting has once again demonstrated the importance of communication from and with fans and the consideration of their needs« he says. »The further development in this area is time-consuming and should work primarily through the fan representatives at the clubs, who are ideally appointed from the ranks of fans«, the Bundesliga representative stated. »There are already some well-functioning structures in Austria. Especially with Wacker Innsbruck and Sturm Graz much emphasis is placed on the involvement of fans - and this is also attracting international attention«.