The UEFA-backed European Football Supporters Award for 2011 has gone to the Liege-based organisation Fan Coaching for its special contribution to encouraging harmony at stadiums.
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Fan Coaching, a non-profit organisation based in the city of Liege, joins a distinguished list of former winners, recognised for making a special contribution to restoring a positive atmosphere around football stadiums. The award emphasises true sporting values – respect for the opposition, respect for the referee, loyalty to your favourite team, acceptance of defeat, and fair play in the broadest sense.
The European Football Supporters Award (EFSA) was created in 2005 – the 20th anniversary of the Heysel disaster in Brussels – and with UEFA's help and support, it aims to change mentalities in and around stadiums by promoting a friendly atmosphere. Each year, an award is given to the most deserving football club or association that has demonstrated exemplary conduct by trying to instil a positive spirit around any football game anywhere in Europe.
The jury comprises distinguished representatives from the European Commission, the Council of Europe, European Sports Magazines, the City of Brussels, the Sport and Citizenship Association, and EFSA representatives.
For years, through a partnership between Liege city council, the University of Liege and R. Standard de Liège, and with the support of the Belgian Federal Public Service Home Affairs, Fan Coaching has undertaken numerous social and educational activities geared at preventing violence among supporters. In addition, its expertise is recognised by national and international institutions.
In order to reduce, through mediation work, the risk of incidents, the Fan Coaching team accompanies Standard supporters to all matches in Belgium and abroad. Sporting and cultural activities are also organised to stimulate the positive potential of the fans, who benefit from a permanent social club called the Fan-Home. From the start, any action on the ground has been guided by scientific research conducted at the University of Liege.
Within the framework of Belgium's Open Stadium programme, a community scheme entitled Foot in the Community has also been developed. Initiated in cooperation with Standard and the city council, it has enabled the creation of an extracurricular support centre at Standard's stadium for local children, featuring cultural activities such as a theatre workshop for young fans; plus the nurturing of a Foot-Homeless project which uses sport as a tool for the social integration of people in economic difficulty.
For over a decade, Fan Coaching has also contributed to international exchanges via the European Forum for Urban Safety, arranging numerous seminars and conferences with the goal of developing practices for the prevention of violence in sport and pooling knowledge in the management of sporting events, while at the same time assisting the role of the local authorities within Europe.
"On behalf of Fan Coaching, I woud like to thank the organisers of the EFSA for seeing fit to reward our association at this 2011 edition," said Manuel Comeron, spokesman for Fan Coaching. "This prestigious prize underlines the quality of the work put in by those on the ground and the role of the institutions who support our activities, along with the importance of social and educational prevention at local and international level."
"The EFSA is particularly pleased with the final outcome regarding this exceptional choice – confirming once more the importance of fair play in and around football stadiums," said EFSA initiator and spokesman Philippe Housiaux. "This partnership between three bodies [university, public body and club] constitutes a very fine example of a successful collaboration that is contributing positively to the beautiful game."
Previous winners of the European Football Supporters Award:
2005 La Peña Multicolor (Spain)
2006* Amalgamation of Ireland Supporters Clubs (Northern Ireland)
2007 Genoa Club for Children (Italy)
2008 National Association for Disabled Supporters (United Kingdom)
2009 Association Média-Pitchounes de Toulouse (France)
2010 Never Again Association (Poland)
* A special prize was also handed to German supporters in 2006 for their excellent behaviour during the FIFA World Cup.