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Working together for stadium safety

UEFA vice-president Michael van Praag has called on those involved in stadium safety and security in European football to unite and "make a difference".

UEFA vice-president Michael van Praag speaks at the UEFA/EU Stadium and Security Conference in Warsaw
UEFA vice-president Michael van Praag speaks at the UEFA/EU Stadium and Security Conference in Warsaw ©Sportsfile

UEFA vice-president Michael van Praag has urged all stakeholders involved in stadium safety and security in European football to "work together and change things for the better" to ensure that matches can take place in a "safe, secure and welcoming environment."

Addressing the latest UEFA/EU Stadium and Security Conference in Warsaw, van Praag, who is also chairman of the UEFA Stadium and Security Committee, called for concerted and coordinated joint efforts by those working in football, governments, police and public authorities to combat and reduce incidents of violence in and around stadiums.

Van Praag said he was determined to ensure that UEFA would contribute to a sustainable improvement in stadium and security aspects in European football.

European police and government agency representatives, security officers from UEFA, national associations and clubs, and stadium owners have gathered in Warsaw for their annual discussions on contemporary security issues.

"This conference brings together most of the biggest clubs in European football," Van Praag said. "Clubs with the support of massive numbers of fans who, once again, will follow their clubs across the continent in the coming season. Regrettably, not all of these followers will behave in a manner which brings credit on themselves or their clubs."

Van Praag underlined UEFA's readiness for dialogue with supporters' organisations, as well as its support for initiatives from clubs and supporters across Europe that aimed to enhance the fan experience. Nevertheless, he added, UEFA and the football family had to remain totally vigilant in the face of the minority of spectators whose conduct had a negative effect on the game.

"When discussing supporter behaviour," he said, "I have to remind clubs and national associations of their wider responsibilities. Many of the incidents are caused by travelling supporters who have no tickets for matches. Many have no intention of attending the matches at all.

"These people cannot be disowned, simply because they do not buy or possess a ticket. Clubs and national associations must understand that their responsibilities extend to everyone who travels across Europe in their colours. Inclusion and exclusion strategies must take account of this."

"I strongly encourage enhanced dialogue between clubs, national associations and their governments on this important issue."

A new European Convention on Spectator Violence is ready for implementation, 30 years after the first convention in the wake of the Heysel disaster in 1985. UEFA and its pan-European partners in the EU and Council of Europe have given joint backing to the move. "In line with the philosophy which has been adopted in recent years by UEFA and its European partners, there is a change in emphasis," explained Van Praag.

"No longer is violence and disorder the only issue. The key message conveyed in the new convention is the need to deliver an integrated approach to the three key pillars of safety, security and service."

Van Praag emphasised that the new convention provided an opportunity for public authorities, national associations and clubs to push through an agenda for improvement. "Everyone must embrace this agenda if there is to be any chance of success. Importantly, the convention will become binding on signatory states once it is adopted. It is without doubt a new weapon in our armoury and we must use it to maximum effect.

"Much requires to be done, and the development of the new convention must act as a catalyst to move forward. The focus must be on promoting and supporting the integrated and balanced approach to safety, security and service.

"I would ask all of you here today to make your own commitment to implementing the vision for improvement shared by UEFA and its pan-European partners," Van Praag concluded. "Embrace the opportunities, which are offered – but at the same time ask yourselves what you can do as national associations, clubs and police to make a difference. Let each of us face up to reality …"