Participants from ten countries and organisations came together to discuss the new Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety Security and Service Approach.
Project partners Svenska Footballsupporterunionen (SFSU), Association Nationale des Supporters (ANS), Football Supporters Europe (FSE), Czech Football League (LFA), Polish Football Association (PZPN), Portuguese Football Association (FPF), Swedish Football League (SEF), contributing partners French Football League (LFP), guests Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Football Union of Russia (RFU), international experts from the Council of Europe (Adrian Dinca, chair of the Standing Committee of Spectator Violence), the European Think Tank of Football Safety and Security Expert (David Bohannon, chairman) and experts from Bulgaria (SLOs, club representatives, representatives of the Bulgarian Committee for Children, Youth, and Sports) attended LIAISE’s packed two-day workshop that was hosted by the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU).
After a short welcome by the BFU general secretary, Borislav Bobov, and SD Europe’s head of SLO development, Stuart Dykes, the SLO coordinator of the Bulgarian Football Union, Dimitar Christov, presented on the development and the challenges of the SLO role in Bulgaria and explained how the new Council of Europe Convention has supported his work. He also touched on specific problems in Bulgaria that the Convention cannot address directly.
Adrian Dinca then introduced the participants to the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events. Later in the workshop, and on the same topic, David Bohannan explained the practical implications of the Convention for all stakeholders, including SLOs and supporter groups, and the spoke about the increased responsibilities the latter will have to support in order to increase the professionalisation and recognition of the role.
Participants then broke up into four groups and debated the role the new Convention can play in strengthening and raising awareness of the role of SLOs; mitigating the resulting demands on SLOs by other stakeholders; managing situations in which one or more of the stakeholders (associations, leagues, clubs, SLOs, police, supporters) refuse to cooperate with others; ensuring the service approach remains a priority for all stakeholders, not only through the SLO work; and overcoming the challenges of establishing proactive, regular communication between key stakeholders through SLOs and other vehicles.
During the discussions it was apparent that most of the countries are already honoring the spirit of the convention regardless of whether their governments have signed or ratified it. All participants, however, highlighted the contribution of LIAISE in establishing or further developing dialogue and communication between supporter groups and the football and public authorities. Especially in France, the national supporters organisation ANS identified LIAISE as a ‘positive gamechanger’ for the relationship between them and the Ministry of Sport, the French Football Federation and the French Football League.
LIAISE is a unique two-year collaborative partnership that brings together supporters (SD Europe, FSE, ANS, SFSU), football associations (Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal), football leagues (Czech Republic, France, Sweden) and stakeholders including UEFA and the European Think Tank of Football Safety and Security Experts for the first time. LIAISE kicked off in January 2018 and will run for two years until December 2019. A number of activities and events have already been held: the opening meeting in Prague (March 2018), the training workshop on supporter liaison in Stockholm (April 2018), an exchange visit of the Czech Football League in Bulgaria and of the Czech League and Bulgarian Football Union to Poland, the training workshop on the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports events. Further activities will include another ten exchange visits and one more training workshop in Portugal later this year.