The return of strong emotions, excessive outbursts and bitter disappointments. The Champions League resumes its rights, with Wednesday, September 15, the entry into the running of a PSG that everyone hopes finally led by his supersonic trio: Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
A return that should also celebrate the return of supporters after a year of shocks behind closed doors. UEFA is once again allowing fans in the stands – an opportunity to applaud a decision by football’s governing bodies. It is not that common. Because we no longer count, in recent months, the supportive anger against institutions or clubs promoting a certain idea of football.
Rapid mobilization against the biennial World Cup
Latest example to date, the project refined by the International Football Federation (Fifa) and praised by the former coach Arsène Wenger, who became the development director of the organization: a World Cup every two years, in 48 countries, in alternation with a selection competition like the Euro for example, which would therefore also come back every two years. Enough to ensure a permanent show. General applause? Far from it.
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Supporters in particular were quick to draw against the novelty. The Football Supporters Europe (FSE) association split on September 8 in an outraged statement signed by 63 associations around the world. A rapid mobilization, like that of the rebellious supporters, in April 2021, by the European Super League defended by some big clubs – the latter finally backed down under the pressure, in particular from their fans.
The supporters opposed to reforms and the ultimate defenders of a damaged tradition? “The transformations of football since the 1990s have been done in one direction, with pharaonic transfers that end up blurring the identity of the clubs, leaders in search of profits who, over time, have upset European competitions, notes the sociologist Nicolas Hourcade. From the 2000s, the supporters were structured. Now they want to make their voice heard, by claiming to be the guarantors of popular sport against sport-business. “
Ronan Evain, the FSE coordinator, fully assumes this conservative vision of football: “Football is part of a tradition that structures the lives of supporters and, yes, they tend to want to preserve a certain golden age. But this is not a rancid culture of pure nostalgia. They are aware of the need for reforms, but they do not want to follow the escalation proposed by Fifa or the big clubs. They believe that football can always continue to grow and increase its income. The cake is actually stagnating, and with its biennial World Cup, Fifa is only competing with UEFA and the national championships. “
Sofas against stands
President of the Irrésistibles Français, the main association of supporters of the Blues, and signatory of the appeal of the FSE, Hervé Mougin also protests against this logic of always more: ” What’s the point ? Do we want to burn players more and more at the end of the season with insane schedules? And then how can we promote women’s football for years and suddenly throw it into the shadows with men’s competitions every year that would make it much less visible? Too much football kills football. The worst part is that Fifa claims that the supporters want a World Cup every two years. It’s wrong. We are not consulted! “.
Fifa plays, in fact, the card of the sofa supporter, more than that of the stadiums. “The authorities are based on a public who consume sports shows on television without being really committed, much easier to satisfy”, explains Nicolas Hourcade. However, Fifa claims to want to take the opinion of the fans by the end of 2021. Will they really be able to counter the will of the president of the body Gianni Infantino, a fervent supporter of change? “We may be in a period of change, advance Nicolas Hourcade. Fifa usually imposes its views like a steamroller. But the supporters showed their strength in the Super League episode. If their voice is relayed by other bodies such as UEFA, which also refuses this biennial World Cup, perhaps they can be heard. “
The return of visitors to European forums
Supporters had long hoped for the lifting of travel bans in Europe for health reasons. This was requested in particular by the FSE association, which benefits from careful listening on the side of the governing body of European football, UEFA. The good news fell on September 6, with UEFA finally allowing outside supporters for its three competitions, although local restrictions may still apply. Three French clubs are traveling for this first round of the group stages: PSG in Bruges on Wednesday September 15, and, in the Europa League, Lyon at Rangers in Glasgow and Marseille at Lokomotiv Moscow on Thursday 16. Also on Thursday, Monaco receives from its side the Austrians from Sturm Graz, and Rennes the English from Tottenham in the Europa League Conference.