UEFA stands up! ⋆ An Old International

UEFA stands up!

The European Union of Football Associations, UEFA, are not known for their innovative and revolutionary character, rather they have – voluntarily or not – established a reputation of being corrupt and ignorant to issues that concern the very people at the core of the game: the players and the fans. Yet, their latest plan is nothing short of revolutionary, indeed.

Just ahead of the semi-final France-Germany at the Women’s European Championship this organization released a statement indicating that during the 2022/23 season standing facilities during European Cup games will be permitted in three countries: England, France and Germany. Crucially, Italy and Spain have been left out. As have been women’s matches. This will be the first time since 1988 that standing will be allowed.

STANDING! At European competitions!

This is valid during all home matches up to the semi-final stages; the finals will be excluded as they are supposed to be neutral venues. Of course, these show pieces remain untouched. At the end of the season, the program and its success will be examined by a panel of independent experts to assess and discuss its findings before submitting it to the UEFA Executive Committee.

While this move is laudable and more than long overdue, questions remain as to the independence of the panel and the possibility of inadequate or inappropriate behaviour in those sections. What happens if a small section causes trouble? Will it be banned outright again, even though the culprits have been identified? Why is it only for the men’s and not included for the women’s game? The last season has seen a dramatic increase of violence in and around football grounds in Europe and last season’s Champions League Final was overshadowed by severe problems for fans to get inside – largely caused by a heavy handed approach by the French police and their misconception of football supporters. However, it was UEFA in charge and therefore the responsibility was with them, despite attempts to distort the truth. It is a reminder that stadium disasters were mostly caused by bad stewarding and policing or simply recklessness of the authorities.

It is of course laudable that UEFA are taking this step since standing has been part of football ever since its modern version has been played. It is a victory for fan organizations who have been campaigning for years for standing to be re-introduced.

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