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Ensuring a welcoming environment


At a joint stadium and security conference in Warsaw, UEFA and the European Union urged efforts to ensure a safe and welcoming environment at the continent's stadiums.

UEFA/EU Stadium and Security Conference ©Getty Images

UEFA and the European Union have urged reinforced co-operation, dialogue and action between all relevant stakeholders to ensure and improve safety and security at football matches in Europe's stadiums.

At the UEFA-EU stadium and security conference in Warsaw on Thursday, UEFA Stadium and Security Committee chairman Grigoriy Surkis, and Elvinas Jankievičius, vice-minister of the interior of Lithuania – who currently hold the EU presidency – called for football bodies and clubs, governments, public authorities and police to join together and face challenges in this area head-on – and to avoid any complacency at a time when incidents of various kinds are still happening in and around football stadiums.

"We have deliberately chosen as a conference theme 'Together – The Only Way Forward'," said Mr Surkis. "UEFA is an association of associations – 54 national football associations spread across Europe. Despite the strength of this collective collaboration, UEFA cannot exist or operate in isolation. We need to be supported by governments, public authorities and police as well as our clubs in our efforts to ensure that our competitions can take place in a safe, secure and welcoming environment, and ensure that there is indeed a positive legacy for the future.

"Europe is currently experiencing a period of political turbulence and economic instability, and football cannot escape the impact of this," he reflected. "In UEFA, we have seen a rise in political protest in recent times, both at matches and indeed at other UEFA events. In seeking to address these issues, cooperation and information exchange between public authorities and UEFA has become a necessity, and not an option. We must overcome superficial barriers to cooperation in the interests of all parties."

Mr Surkis stressed that joint commitment was needed for a truly integrated approach to stadium and security management – involving police and stadium management working together to build models which are effective in maintaining levels of safety and security, and which are also recognised as legitimate by supporters.

"National associations, clubs and police require support from the highest levels of government in individual countries and at the European institutional level," he said. "This is required to ensure that stadium safety standards are properly embedded in a regulatory framework, to ensure that legislation supports effective exclusion of those offenders who seek to destroy our sport and, linked to this, to ensure that prosecution policies and judicial processes are swift and effective."

Mr Surkis said UEFA would continue to consult thoroughly with individual governments and all national associations, work together with its pan-European partners, and support integrated training of stadium managers, police commanders and stewarding.

Mr Jankievičius took up the same theme on behalf of the EU. "We cannot organise these events in isolation," he said. "Police and authorities need the help from the clubs and the other way around. This cooperation is also necessary at international level. Clubs and police forces must work together to ensure high quality information exchange, and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to welcome travelling supporters.

"The European Union, the Council of Europe and UEFA need to work together to ensure a multi-agency integrated approach on safety and services at football matches… on the basis of our discussions with UEFA, we also will concentrate on three concrete themes for improvement: pyrotechnics, tackling discrimination and hate crime and, last but not least, fan dialogue."

Mr Jankievičius said it was everyone's responsibility to ensure this safe and secure environment for all spectators. "We need a welcoming environment, where people feel relaxed and can enjoy the city centre or the game on the pitch," he said. "We need thorough and coordinated preparations by all agencies involved. We need to focus on information exchange between the relevant police forces involved, in order to be able to make a dynamic risk assessment and determine targeted measures. We need to enter into a dialogue with the fans themselves if we want to have a successful event.

"We need safe and secure stadiums, which are inspected, tested and certified. We need trained and professional police officers and stewards to welcome our guests. We need contingency plans and evacuation exercises. And if finally things go wrong, we need to respond in an adequate way, with tough sanctions if required.

"Extensive progress has been made in this field over the last years, but there are many more challenges still ahead of us," Mr Jankievičius concluded. "Those who are responsible need to take up their responsibility, because people's lives are at stake. An integrated approach is needed, from prevention to repression, and one that involves the active and joint participation of public and private authorities, police forces, clubs, supporters and other stakeholders."