Football supporters Europe is an independent and democratically organized grass-roots network of football fans from over 45 countries across the continent. They exist in order to connect fans across Europe, organise transnational campaigns on supporter issues and support fans in their actions also locally. Furthermore, they lobby for the rights of fans and grass-roots supporter culture in Europe. They meet the UEFA board on a yearly basis and present a series of policy proposals. In light of the allegations of corruption and the lack of transparency in FIFA, the FSE has taken a particularly rigid stance against the world football body. Since July of 2011, the FSE has demanded a series of policy changes regarding increased transparency and accountability both at the financial and gubernatorial level. We sat down with the Coordinator of the FSE, Daniela Wurbs to talk about the recent developments in the ongoing FIFA corruption investigation, and the role the UEFA and fans in Europe can may play in the future of the game…
Why have the latest developments with FIFA provoked such a reaction? “At the end of the day it is just the peak in a really long process. WE would have hoped that it would have been scandals like dying workers that would have stirred such a process years ago at the very latest, but in the end it was the corruption. It is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What's significant about this situation? For the first time UEFA is so clearly outspoken against Blatter, and this seems to be a collective move involving the vast majority of members. The statement that they issued showing the red card to FIFA is very strong and we welcome it. It is now more important than ever, if they want to maintain credibility, for them to act on it and that’s what can probably hurt a body like FIFA the most.
How do you think those at the top of UEFA have changed their views in the last couple of days? I don’t really think they have changed their opinion, they have changed their approach. As these bodies some times seem to work they want to resolve things behind closed doors. I think UEFA is using this momentum to speak up publicly rather than how they traditionally do it. It seems more and more obvious that FIFA is not capable of regulating itself from the inside, and needs external pressure to do so.
Do you think this will lead UEFA to create a change in the game? I would love to be more optimistic, but we will have to wait and see. At first it seemed as though they would boycott the election, and now they are participating, because they seem to think Prince Ali can actually win. It all depends on the result of the Election. If Blatter wins they will have to seriously consider whether to stay inside this organization if they want to maintain any credibility. UEFA is where the money is in world football, and at the end of the day if they pull out, they will take most of the money with them.
Is it important that fans play more of a role in football governance? “Football fans are the major stake holder in the game, and we are more than just customers. We deserve the right to be in discussion on how things are run because we are clearly more loyal than most of the officials and don’t just see it as a job. The involvement of fans in football governance is evidently supporting transparency and accountability in clubs. This can be seen in the work of Supported Direct Europe, and they have shown great successes for the work they do in football as a whole.
How can fans continue to change the culture in football? Its about getting involved in anything that affects the fans because they are the ones who feel the consequences of it. This is also what makes the commercial success in football. This is why there needs to be a cultural change that takes the supporters opinions into account. If we want to change how the game is run, FIFA needs to be at the top of this priority list. We need people in charge who care more about a game they love than greed and the wealth in their pockets.
What do you think the future has in store for FIFA? Hopefully a major change. A future without Sepp Blatter and his friends. Anything else would be pure speculation, so I will have to wait for another day to comment, and have to hope that UEFA keep to their word and act according to the radical change they want to see.
Why should we feel positive about the developments? As supporters we should feel positive about these developments because there has hardly been a moment in recent decades where FIFA has been that much under fire from all sides for things supporters and others have criticized already for ages, and rightly so. Everything else remains to be seen. At the end of the day, fans have been waiting for a day like this for a long time. If world football doesn't finally wake up and undergo the true reform that it so desperately needs now, then I don't know what else needs to happen to achieve that.
Hopefully world football will wake up!