When the coronavirus struck Europe earlier this year, fans' groups mobilised quickly to help their communities' most vulnerable.
Article top media content
With witty, cleverly written songs, jaw-dropping tifos and logistical expertise aplenty, many clubs' supporters' groups are very well-organised and proud bodies.
So, it was only natural that when the novel coronavirus struck Europe earlier this year, they quickly called upon their honed organisational processes and committed members to help their local communities in whatever way they could. Because of their set-ups, many were able to mobilise very swiftly, ensuring the needs of the vulnerable members of their region were met as soon as possible. The below are just a few examples of the huge amount of effort put in across Europe by fans' groups over the last six months.
A joint Everton and Liverpool fans' group helped to feed vulnerable people across the city by creating a food hub to fill the gap left by collections at football matches. The Fans Supporting Foodbanks group then turned their attention to supporting key workers, creating the Merseyside PPE Hub. With their partners, they helped produce and distribute more than 25,000 visors, hundreds of scrubs and more than 3,000 face masks around the region, before circulating a further 5,000 protective visors to key workers in cities across the UK.
A common initiative led by fan groups across the continent was to set up fundraisers for local organisations battling the pandemic. Supporters' clubs affiliated with Real Zaragoza were encouraged to donate to the Brotherhood of the Zaragoza Refuge and their €10,000 target was hit within two weeks.
In France, Saint-Étienne fans set up their own fund, with the money collected being used to purchase food or equipment for numerous hospital departments in the region. In the west of the country, Brest fans did likewise with all proceeds going to the University Hospital of Brest.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv's official fan club launched the 'pLOVEdiv against COVID 19' campaign, which raised funds used to purchase highly technical hospital equipment such as resuscitation beds and video laryngoscopes. They also contributed in a different way, teaming up with the region's transfusion haematology centre to organise blood donations. The club's fans answered in their numbers to provide Bulgarian health services with much-needed supplies of blood when they were at their most stretched.
Volunteering and essentials
Many fans' groups combined fundraising and volunteering activities. Stuttgart's 'Help Together!' campaign mobilised a huge number of volunteers and funding to aid the vulnerable in surrounding communities.
Fans of Spartak Moskva located in Russia's capital helped their fellow Spartak fans in the city of Vladimir, to the east of Moscow. They focused on giving aid to struggling families, with food kits supplied to over 100 families and more than 170 in total benefiting from the aid provided.
Śląsk Wrocław fan groups The Great Silesia fans' association and the Fans Razem Śląsk Wrocław undertook efforts common to many other supporters across Poland and Europe. They organised themselves to take donations from people while they were shopping and provided the aid to hospital staff and paramedics. Some of the key items handed over included mineral water, coffee, tea, protective equipment (gloves, masks, overalls) and electric kettles.
Dutch supporters' group FSV De Feijenoorder wanted to make more of a club-related gesture to the nursing homes in Rotterdam and the surrounding area. They delivered editions of their Hand in Hand magazine, along with a number of red and white items such as scarves and cups.
Recognising that hospitals were full and that all the staff within were protecting themselves with special all-encompassing suits that often made them unidentifiable and perhaps seem less human, more robot, FSV De Feijenoorder came up with a solution. They delivered 100 pairs of red and white socks to the Ikazia Hospital in April to distinguish the health workers and bring a touch of personality to a necessarily sterile environment.
UEFA recognises the solidarity and incredible effort made by fans' groups across Europe during the pandemic and will continue to work in conjunction with its partners Football Supporters Europe and SD Europe. UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: "The health crisis has re-emphasised the importance of fans, and the year-round support they give their teams makes football the unique game it is. Our sport misses that special something you only get with the fans."