Smarter cooperation between governing bodies, clubs, public authorities and police, and a united approach to finding solutions for incidents scarring football, were key findings at the annual UEFA Stadium and Security Conference in Athens.
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The need for smarter co-operation between governing bodies, clubs, public authorities and police was the leading topic of discussion as more than 360 representatives from UEFA, national associations, clubs, police forces, the Council of Europe, the European Group of Football Safety and Security Experts and other stakeholders met for the annual UEFA Stadium and Security Conference in Athens.
As such, the theme for the eighteenth annual gathering was ‘Learning Together’, referenced in the opening remarks by UEFA General Secretary Theodore Theodoridis.
“The success of this event has been, and will continue to be getting together to exchange know-how and to learn together,” he said. “Only together can we find solutions to the alarming incidents that are scarring our game.”
In his address, Michalis Chrisochoidis, Greece’s Minister for Citizen Protection, contrasted fan behaviour in domestic and European competitions: “Fans and teams are aware there will be consequences in Europe; in Greece, they are not sure if there will be any consequences.
“Compliance with the law is missing, even if the institutional framework is there. Games in domestic competitions should be run following the rules followed in European competitions.”
Lefteris Avgenakis, Greece’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Sport, added: “We are making a constant effort to change existing culture. We want to redefine football as entertainment for the whole family.”
The President of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), Evangelos Grammenos, welcomed the conference guests, and added: “I am grateful for the know-how provided in this conference, and I wish every success to you all and hope you have a safe football season.”
The conference kicked off with a powerful video review, with alarming data showing increases in the number of dangerous incidents in various categories in UEFA competition matches over the past three seasons.
The review also highlighted that more volatile environments in stadia and cities reflected a more volatile Europe, and emphasised the importance of proportionality and targeting in responses.
Among the solutions discussed was the need to exclude the few to keep the many safe, while the scope, legitimacy, proportionality and ethos of exclusion measures were explored.
Indeed, subsequent polling (delegates voted on a large variety of questions and responses collated) among the delegates showed overwhelmingly (over 85%) that ineffective prosecution and sanctions processes are an obstacle to tackling football violence and disorder in their countries.
Effective exclusion of trouble-making fans was widely regarded as the single most important factor for tackling football-related violence and disorder across Europe. There was also general agreement in polling that governments and public authorities must take the lead to ensure that bans were universal in scope.
The attendees also watched a thought-provoking presentation on the continuing problem of pyrotechnics, including expert insight from Dr Tom Smith, the principal author of the independent joint UEFA/Football Supporters Europe report on the safety of pyrotechnics in stadiums, and a video on the horrific consequences of their improper use in stadiums.
Other speakers included Paolo Gomes from the Council of Europe, and David Bohannan from the European Group of Football Safety and Security Experts, who gave updates on their organisations’ role in a multi-agency approach to safety and security.