Sport Conventions

Recommendation on the removal of fences in stadiums (99/2)

(adopted at the 19th meeting, 9-10 June 1999, of the Standing Committee of the European Convention on Spectator Violent and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches;

1. The tragic events of the 1980s in football stadiums led European countries to take practical steps to prevent and control spectator violence and misbehaviour at football matches. Fences and other barriers were installed in football stadiums to separate rival teams' supporters in the stands and/or prevent spectators from invading the pitch.

2. These fences and barriers created a cage-like environment in Europe's stadiums. Being unsightly and having negative connotations, they are not conducive to the creation of a harmonious and festive spirit at football matches. Indeed, they heighten the tension and the feeling of alienation among spectators. Furthermore, fences can be a safety hazard, particularly when crowds panic. Fences around pitches, for example, hinder evacuation in an emergency.

3. Since the period when fences were installed, stadium design and crowd control techniques have progressed. Renovation work on many football grounds has considerably improved spectator facilities, for example in terms of refreshments, ladies' lavatories, etc, making stadiums pleasanter and more attractive places for the whole family. Another major improvement in spectator safety has been the introduction of numbered seating-only arrangements. In addition to these innovations, modern information and communication technologies and high-powered video surveillance systems have been installed, the ticket sales system has been improved, a better method of controlling access to the stadiums developed, appropriate legislation with effective sanctions introduced and better European police co-operation instigated. Enhanced stewarding techniques have also improved conditions for the reception of spectators and helped to create an environment that discourages violence. Lastly, police forces are now more experienced in crowd control.

4. The last European championship (Euro 96) and the 1998 World Cup championship in France were held mainly in stadiums with no fences. The removal of fences from most grounds has not led to any increase in spectator violence, except for a few minor incidents. This state of affairs prompted the Standing Committee to reconsider its policy in this matter. On the basis of the experience of Euro 96, it adopted a statement on fences and barriers (appended) at its 17th meeting, on 5 and 6 June 1997.

5. The same applies to the 1998 World Cup in France where the removal of fences in most stadiums had no adverse effect on safety, except in a few isolated incidences.

In its evaluation report on the 1998 World Cup, FIFA concluded:

"The removal of perimeter fences in most of the stadia did not exacerbate the safety situation at all, except in a very few isolated cases. The crowd fully respected the fact that the field of play is sacred. This should further encourage FIFA and the national associations to continue to dismantle perimeter fences, even for league matches. Of course the undersigned is perfectly aware that World Cup spectators are quite different from those who attend normal first division matches in most European countries." (cf T-RV (98) 16).

6. In the national reports to be presented to the Standing Committee at its 19th meeting, one of the questions concerns fencing. A total of 20 delegations supplied information on the situation and trends in their countries concerning the removal of fences. In 5 of these countries there are no fences in football grounds, while another 2 have fencing in only a third of their stadiums. Nine countries are gradually removing fences or replacing them with lower, more attractive barriers or transparent Plexiglas. Only 4 countries are in favour of keeping fences. This means that a large majority of European countries have already set about removing fences from their stadiums.

7. It is interesting to note that countries, like England and France, that recently staged major international championships (Euro 96 and the 1998 World Cup) pioneered the move to dismantle fences in stadiums in the wake of this experience. The international championships they hosted provided these countries with an incentive to improve their systems of safety, crowd control, stadium design, stewarding (see Recommendation No. 1/99 on stewarding) and so on. Their examples show that the removal of fences should be one of the measures taken to improve safety arrangements as well as conditions for the reception of spectators in football stadiums.

8. The removal of fences also seems to go hand in hand with the development of a more festive, family-friendly atmosphere. Removing physical barriers undoubtedly helps to get rid of mental barriers: "good treatment breeds good behaviour".

9. In the light of these considerations, the Standing Committee recommends to the States parties to the Convention to proceed to the removal of fences in sports grounds. The removal of fences, which is primarily the responsibility of stadia owners and/or organisers of matches, could be carried out on a voluntary basis and gradually. The principle should be the removal of all fencing; but, where necessary, other measures or means of a less irksome nature could be used to keep spectators off the pitch, such as the installation of low, removable barriers and the adjustment of the height of terraces or of the first row of seats. Finally, this new strategy should be implemented in concert with the national and international football organisations, and Parties could offer incentives to help with improvements to the physical fabric of stadia.


Appendix to the Recommendation

Adopted by the Standing Committee at its 17th meeting on 5-6 June 1997 in Strasbourg

"The consequences of major outbreaks of spectator violence and misbehaviour in the 1980s included, inevitably, restrictive measures such as the erection of perimeter fences and obstacles to protect the playing area. This has led to restricted views and a less welcoming environment.

Certain measures which could eventually make it possible to remove perimeter fences have been identified.

The Standing Committee notes these with satisfaction and looks forward to the day when such fences and barriers will no longer be needed.

The Standing Committee considers that the basic prerequisites for this, developed to a sufficient standard, include:

- The introduction of all seater and numbered seats stadia, equipped with closed-circuit television and command and control posts.

- Adequate management of ticket sales.

- The improvement of crowd control management techniques (both by police forces and by football bodies), with a growing role for stewards illustrating the shift towards self-policing and self-responsibility.

- Better national and European police cooperation for the identification of potential trouble makers and better security.

- The introduction of appropriate legislation, with effective sanctions for convicted offenders.

All Parties to the Convention agree to work in the same direction so that major matches can be sources of peaceful enjoyment.

The example of Euro '96 shows that if all other measures are in place, perimeter fences can be removed and police presence reduced in stadia.

At its next meeting, the Standing Committee aims to adopt a strategy to achieve this."