The Fans’ Embassy concept can be traced back to services provided for supporters of the England and Germany at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and has evolved through subsequent tournaments. The main aims behind Fans’ Embassies are the implementation of preventative and social measures and the oﬀering of structural support for travelling supporters at international tournaments. The provision of a Fans’ Embassy service forms a very constructive and positive part of the hospitality programme at a tournament. The essential features of a Fans’ Embassy service are the provision of accurate, reliable, up-to-date, independent, and objective information on any matters of interest to football fans. Fans Embassies are proven to be valuable and significant additions to the conventional security measures during all major football events in the past 30 years.
Fans’ Embassies also provide information that is tailored to the specific fields of interest of football supporters, such as about (inter)national fan culture and about alternative activities in the host cities. Fans’ Embassies provide help and assistance in case of emergency (physical violence, theft, etc.) and can be addressed as mediators in conflict situations.
Foundation of Fans’ Embassies and Early History
Fans’ Embassies have been recognised as a best practice tool in the course of this change in perspective. The idea for Fans’ Embassies came out of two national initiatives, developed totally independently from one another in England and Germany in the early 1990s.
• The English model – by fans, for fans
On the English side, the Fans’ Embassy service began as a lobbying and self-empowerment initiative taken by the Football Supporters’ Association (now known as the Football Supporters’ Federation – FSF), a membership based campaigning body made up of ordinary football supporters and independent of both football and governmental authorities. The English Fans’ Embassy service enjoys a good reputation for reliability among England’s travelling supporters for its consistency, and also because it is a service run by supporters for supporters. This generates a feeling among fans that the service is “on their side”. The FSF runs Fans’ Embassies at every England game in order to guarantee consistency of their service and as a confidence-building measure for the English supporters. Moreover, the FSF publishes a “Free Lions” fanzine at each game.
• The German model – professional fan workers
Similarly, the service operated by the German fan workers is delivered by individuals known to and trusted by the supporter groups. However, the German Fans’ Embassy is provided by trained social workers engaged at various club-based fan projects, primarily involved in work among local supporter groups. Since the 1990 World Cup professional fan workers have also been travelling with the German national team fans and fan clubs. The German Fans’ Embassies are run by KOS, the coordinating office of more than 40 club-based German fan projects.
It is significant and interesting to note that despite the very different starting points of the people involved from the two countries, the parallel development of the Fans’ Embassy services each initiative provided resulted in remarkably similar working practices. This commonality of experiences and conclusions about methodology shared by the two longest-standing and most successful practitioners in the field allows us to speak with some authority about a tried and tested best practice model.
To push the further development of the Fans’ Embassies and to improve and establish the work on a common network basis in Europe, practitioners and organisations in the field founded the Football Supporters International (FSI) network in 2001. FSI was initially set up by the FSF from England and Germany’s KOS, along with organisations from Italy and the Netherlands. FSI was later officially funded to set up Fans’ Embassies at the UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal.
At the World Cup 2006 an even larger number of FSI Fans’ Embassy teams travelled to Germany to assist their supporters’ side by side with the newly introduced stationary Fans’ Embassies. EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland provided the network with the possibility of further developing its work, increasing the number of mobile teams and officially running the programme from the very start with the necessary funding from UEFA. FSI members helped to continuously professionalise the approach and concepts and established new Fans’ Embassies all around Europe.
Ahead of UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine after many months of hard work and campaigning it was confirmed that the Fans’ Embassies concept would become part of UEFA’s four targeted social projects. Football Supporters Europe received the financial assistance required to deliver the Fans’ Embassies initiatives under the RESPECT Fan Culture banner. This proved to be a pivotal moment for the movement of Fans’ Embassies and was the most successful to the date. There were 12 mobile Fans’ Embassies in operation and 8 stationary Fans’ Embassies from the competing nations.
Football Supporters Europe’s Fans’ Embassies from England, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium were active at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
At UEFA EURO 2016 Fans ’Embassies driven by Football Supporters Europe (FSE) had the most successful tournament in history: fan volunteers from 19 participating countries were in operation to help guide travelling fans through all stages of EURO 2016. Fans’ Embassies and related services for travelling supporters under the project RESPECT FAN CULTURE project provided help and information on match days for supporters following their teams and reported a high demand from fans throughout the tournament. In total there were more than 180 volunteers and staﬀ members running Fans’ Embassies information points around every match at the tournament
In 2018 at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, FSE coordinated and facilitated a whole range of fans’ activities, with the support of the Russian Football Union, Rosturism and the host cities. In the 1st week of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia FSE seen member associations and partners organising Fans’ Embassies, fanwalks and friendly matches between supporters in every host city of the competition. Fans and supporters’ organisations from 20 participating nations were involved in the project.