The FA's isn't the only organising commitee going into overdrive as Euro '96 approaches, as Philip Cornwall reports
Admirable though their attempts are, Glenn and Terry are not the only ones trying to bring English football closer to the rest of Europe. It is crucial that this summer as much is done to improve the English game’s image off the pitch as on it.
The FSA’s football embassies will have an important new role, different from the one they had in Italy and Sweden, helping our visitors rather than liaising between hosts and the travelling English; in addition, there are the numerous cultural events taking place in the host cities designed to bring together as many people as possible from the competing nations and give them a positive view of English football fan culture. And just as it is to be hoped that the odd manager will glean some fresh insight from watching the technique of the best of Europe, so we can learn from our visitors. Such is the philosophy behind Europe United, an event at the South Bank on Saturday 1st June, one week before the tournament kicks off.
This is an event with which a lot of people have already had indirect contact: the Philosophy Football shirts which have been selling through these pages and through magazines and papers and anywhere that would give them a mention have been raising money in order to stage it. If you’ve bought one of the shirts, then no doubt leaflets detailing our bid for world domination have already dropped through your letterbox. For it is the intention of those organizing it, a group of London-based fans based around Mark Perryman, to make this the first of a series of football-themed days. Perryman has long worked on political conferences so has the experience necessary to twist people’s arms into making a go of the idea. Many others have brought their enthusiasm/masochism to bear so that this event will bring together people from as many of the competing nations as possible, for a huge range of activities packed into a single day. From plays to fashion shows, debates to comedy, poetry to music – via a WSC photographic exhibition – Europe United should present everyone who loves football with a lot better value than the average League match. With a créche, too.
It will, of course, be curious to have football at the South Bank – literally in the case of the four-a-side tournament, which there is still time to enter (details from the address in the advert) – and that is another intention of the day. Football is increasingly staged on the periphery of our towns and cities, but Europe United, like other similar events tagged on to Euro ’96, will be stumbled upon by people who know little of football fans beyond the odd sensationalist news story. People who take an armchair interest, but who wouldn’t think of going to a game for fear of meeting some of the football fans they’ve read about in the papers, will be equally surprised.
Though of course that all relies on fans turning up on the day. As with anything involving football, it’s the paying customers who will make or break it. So if you want to see Jo Brand, Graham Kelly, Reverend Ronald Ferguson, Frank Worthington and dozens more on just about the first Saturday since last August without any football, come down to the South Bank on 1st June and do your bit for England, Scotland, Croatia, Turkey. . .
From WSC 112 June 1996. What was happening this month