Opening Ceremony for the Signature of the Council of Europe Convention on Integrated Approach to Safety Security and Service at Football Matches and other Sport Events

Paris , 

As delivered

Thank you all for being here to launch the Council of Europe’s new Convention to boost the international co-operation needed to make football matches and other sporting events safe, secure and enjoyable for supporters.

Ultimately I see this as the world’s first international treaty for fans – dedicated to making sure they have the best experience possible.

I want to thank UEFA for allowing us to launch it here, on this very exciting night, and also the French authorities for their help with the preparations.

It has been a fantastic tournament, with lots of excitement yet to come.

But we must acknowledge that there have also been moments of violence and aggression: they have reminded us of how easily a minority of troublemakers can distract from the otherwise overwhelmingly positive experience of the majority of supporters.

So I am delighted that [11] Council of Europe member states will tonight become the first group of countries to sign the Convention, and I am confident many others will soon follow suit.

This text is an evolution of our first Convention on Spectator Violence, which we adopted over 30 years ago, in 1985, following the Heysel tragedy.

Back then the focus was, understandably, very much about identifying and sanctioning offenders.

The strength of this treaty, in my view, is that it also puts a big emphasis on preventing violence, before it escalates and on enabling the whole network of bodies involved in sports events to work together more effectively, in order that games and tournaments run as smoothly as possible.

That includes, of course, better data sharing and co-operation among police, and greater consistency between member states in identifying troublemakers and, for example, issuing stadium bans or restricting travel.

And it is the only internationally binding instrument which establishes formal co-operation on these issues between a whole host of other stakeholders – including national federations, local authorities, competition organisers, clubs and the fans themselves.

It obliges states to ensure that their stadiums comply with international standards for effective crowd management and safety – and this includes producing and testing plans for handling violent incidents.

And – and this is really important – this Convention isn’t just about clamping down on hooligans; It is about creating a positive atmosphere for everyone else: the kind of atmosphere we can feel building tonight.

We are saying to national authorities: you also have a responsibility to ensure that spectators feel welcome and well-treated throughout events. That includes by making stadiums more accessible to children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

So you see that we want to move from a narrow focus on responding to violence to a more sophisticated approach which thinks of the safety, security and service provided to fans. 

It’s an opportune moment, with preparations underway for the FIFA 2018 World Cup in the Russian Federation, and UEFA’s Euro 2020, which will be held in 13 countries around Europe.

So let me again thank UEFA, the French Government and our signatories.

And let me wish both teams the best of luck for tonight – I’m sorry to sit on the fence but it’s the only way to avoid offending either our hosts or my Nordic compatriots.

Thank you very much.