Fans gather to combat racism07 February 2004

Members of the FARE network gathered over the weekend for a major conference at the Arena Auf Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. FC Schalke 04 hosted the gathering of 70 fan groups, anti-racist initiatives and ethnic minority organisations from 19 countries across the continent.

The conference was designated an official part of Schalke's centenary celebrations. The club have a proud history of working with migrant groups, particularly with the Polish community, who were instrumental in the foundation of the North-Rhine Westphalian club.

At a joint press conference with Schalke, FARE disclosed plans regarding anti-racism and fan activities for EURO 2004. Michael Fanizadeh of the network told members of the press that FARE will run Fan Embassies in partnership with the Football Supporters International (FSI) network for the fans of 10 countries at the championships in Portugal. For the first time, UEFA will support this work with an amount of 600,000 Swiss Francs, allocated to FARE through their charity portfolio.

The philosophy behind fan embassies is to allow fans to work with their peers. Supporters recruited from supporter organisations provide information to visiting fans and help them to handle any difficult situation they may come across. First pioneered during Euro 96 in England, Fan Embassies aim to prevent violence by acting as an information and advisory resource for all supporters.

Based on the experiences accumulated during major football European tournaments over the past eight years, the FSI and FARE believe the work will have a significantly positive impact on fan behaviour at the Euros.

Ten teams of fan embassy workers will be trained in Portugal before June. The teams will come from Germany, England, Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal.

The press conference on Friday was attended by Schalke general manager Rudi Assauer and head coach Jupp Heynckes, the club announced that the Bundesliga match against 1860 Munich on Saturday will feature anti-racism elements, including an anti-racism message to the 60,000 fans in the Arena AufSchalke by president Gerhard Rehberg, the screening of an anti-racist film, a FARE choreography and the display of a huge banner by the Schalke Fan-Initiative, the local organisers of the conference.