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#EFFC2015 IN BELFAST: EUROPEAN FANS DRIVE THE AGENDA IN INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL
More than 250 fans representatives from 30 countries in Europe and beyond met at the 8th European Football Fans Congress (#EFFC2015) in Northern Ireland’s capital city from 2 to 5 July to discuss and work on the current topics around the beautiful game. They were accompanied by a range of guests from world football at the event. Among them was the IFA President of Honour and former FIFA Vice-President Jim Boyce from Northern Ireland who joined a panel discussion on the current state of FIFA, and representatives from UEFA’s Disciplinary Body for talks about sanctions.
Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and the hosts, the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AONISC) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) also welcomed fan project workers, Supporter Liaison Officers, fan lawyers, fan researchers, governmental officials and politicians. Debates ranged across many common issues for fans all across Europe, including mass punishments, stadium bans, the fight against discrimination, the Euro 2016 Fans’ Embassies and last, but not least the state of FIFA. Decision-makers such as Jim Boyce (former FIFA Vice President, Northern Ireland), Michael Maessen (vice-president of the UEFA Appeals Body, Netherlands) and prominent activists such as Sylvia Schenk (Transparency International, Germany) could be welcomed to show their points of view within the several panel discussions and workshops.
After a get-together and ‘meet and greet’ event on Thursday evening, including a visit to the European Cup qualifier between Glentoran and MSK Zilina, the #EFFC2015 programme started on Friday morning with a guided bus tour to give the participants a chance to learn something about the variety of clubs round Belfast, the complexity of the Northern Ireland conflict and its impact on football up to the modern day.
Workshops, meetings, panel discussions and the first part of the AGM took place on Friday afternoon at Seaview Stadium and continued on Saturday at Stranmillis College, with particular focus on the questions of mass punishments and FIFA. On Sunday morning, the second part of the FSE AGM was held at Stranmillis College, where members of FSE elected their new Committee for the coming two years, before the European Football Fans Congress ended at noon.
The newly elected members of the FSE Committee are: Stefanie Dilba (Bündnis Aktive Fußballfans, Germany), Herjan Pullen (Ajax Amsterdam Supportersvereiniging, Netherlands), Jim Spratt (Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, Northern Ireland), Robert Ustian (CSKA Fans Against Racism, Russia), Dirk Vos (Belgian Supporters, Belgium), Basar Yarimoglu (Taraf-Der, Turkey), Kevin Miles (Football Supporters Federation, England & Wales) and Tine Hundahl Jensen (Danske Fodbold Fanklubber, Denmark).
In the evenings, FSE were able to welcome several fans from Northern Ireland who could not make it to the daily programme, who joined the participants.
Tine Hundahl Jensen, member of the FSE Committee, said: “We are happy about the warm welcome from the fans of all clubs in Belfast and want to thank especially Crusaders FC for being such a great host, providing everything we needed for a successful meeting at their Seaview Stadium. We send our warmest greetings to all our members who could not make it to Belfast due to visa issues. We are looking forward to having them with us again next time.”
Professional football player Ralph Gunesch spoke at the workshop on homophobia at Mega Sporting Events. He stated: “It was a big honour for me to be invited. It was a very warm welcome and I hope, my point of view as a professional football player helped, to make the discussion successful. It would be great, if one day everybody independent from sexual orientation, religion, skin color, gender and origin can enjoy the most beautiful game in the world.”
Jim Spratt from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AONISC) and newly elected member of the FSE Committee added: “The AONISC is very happy to have so many football fans from all over Europe in Northern Ireland to talk over important issues affecting supporters. Also to meet and make so many new friends. It is great to be able to represent the AONISC on the Committee of FSE.”
Further details and summaries from the discussions and workshops held, as well as a picture gallery and videos can be obtained from the #EFFC2015 Live Blogfiles on the FSE Website.