European cities and clubs have signed a declaration in Barcelona promoting fair play within cities staging international football matches. The ceremony was hosted by the mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, at Barcelona City Hall in the presence of UEFA first vice-president Şenes Erzik, mayors of other European cities and senior representatives of clubs which are members of the European Club Association (ECA), the body grouping 144 clubs from UEFA's 53 member associations.
The declaration was proposed by UEFA and the city of Barcelona. In it, cities and clubs express a shared will to, among other things, avoid violence and anti-social conduct at international football matches; improve communication and information exchange among match organisers; and share expertise in handling large numbers of visiting fans at such matches. A fan hosting seminar on Tuesday under the theme Football, Host Cities and RESPECT will see vital know-how shared on hosting international matches.
Mr Erzik told guests that the UEFA club competitions were huge sports and media events that gather tens of thousands of people in about 40 cities around Europe for three days in midweek. "The logistics of such events are complex: they involve infrastructure and all modes of transport, international, national and local police forces, food provision and accommodation," he said.
"And yet, it is the public order aspect that always dominates discussions. The situation tends to be approached from a negative angle. How do we prevent trouble? How do we avoid damage? How do we segregate visiting supporters? How do we identify potential troublemakers? These questions are important and we spend a lot of time and resources looking for the answers. But the approach suggested by this seminar is a fundamentally different one – it highlights the positive side of these huge events.
"The UEFA competitions," Mr Erzik continued, "are an excellent excuse to travel, to discover what others have to offer, and to enjoy the great tourist attractions of our continent's cities. Football must, however, also convey the right values and promote respect in all its forms – respect for this rich diversity and, by extension, for others, not only within the stadium, but also in the streets and squares of the host cities.
"The cities themselves must also understand that a big sports event is not just an administrative burden and public order challenge, but more importantly often an exceptional opportunity to promote their cities in all their aspects – cultural, culinary and commercial.
"Too often, perhaps, these events are viewed by the host cities with apprehension, if not fear, which obviously prevents them from showing themselves to their visitors in their best light," Mr Erzik went on. "This seminar is a unique opportunity for the cities, clubs and representatives of supporter organisations to start defining together the criteria that should govern the organisation of such events."
FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta added: "The fact that we have around 50 European clubs together here, including some of Europe's most successful teams, confirms that there is a desire from the clubs to discuss the issue of visiting fans with both the cities and the supporters' organisations and to learn from the experiences of others."
Jaime Lissavetzky, Spain's secretary of state for sport, said passion and respect should be common ambitions within football. "The clubs and cities here are showing their commitment to respect," he said. "This is a value that is intrinsic to football – respect among players and supporters, and to the venue where the match is taking place."
Barcelona's mayor, Jordi Hereu, welcomed the fact that cities and clubs were coming together in a spirit of common concern and willingness to address a variety of issues. UEFA's contribution, he said, had been invaluable in making this meeting possible. "It is time for fair play, to enjoy sport and, especially, to enjoy football."
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