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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

25th May 2012

England fans are coming!

Photo: www.telegraph.co.uk

There’s growing excitement in England about the build-up to Euro 2012 in Ukraine. The British Embassy in Kyiv is working hard to ensure that the thousands of England fans we expect to visit during the championships are properly prepared for the visit with a “Know Before You Go” campaign.

We’re also working hard to ensure we’re well prepared to provide any consular assistance which may be needed, e.g. in cases of fans losing their passports.

These preparations are standard for all major overseas tournaments in which England takes part, including the World Cups in South Africa in 2010 and in Germany in 2006. I was in Germany for the latter and was privileged to watch England beat Paraguay 1-0 in Frankfurt. That game was notable for the huge number of England fans both in the stadium and in the city – on some estimates, 25,000 fans in the ground alone.

What was also striking about the tournaments in both Germany and South Africa was that our carefully-laid consular plans turned out not to be needed too much. This was partly because of luck – you can never predict what will happen when large number of people get together. But it was also because the fans who attend England matches today are utterly different from their 1980s bad-boy image.

Many fans now travel with their families.  The website of the Football Supporters Federation gives a good feel for the kind of issues they’re interested in. The FSF plan to release their “Free Lions” guide to Ukraine and Poland today.

One important reason why the nature of British football fans has changed is that in 2000 the British Government introduced a series of unprecedented tough measures to banish violence from football, including Football Banning Orders which prevent fans with a history of violence from travelling when England were playing overseas.

The results have been impressive: in South Africa in 2010, for example, not a single England fan was arrested for a violence-related offence. The England fans I met in Frankfurt, and indeed in Dnipropetrovsk when England played Ukraine there in 2009, were a notably peaceful lot.

When England fans come to Kyiv and Donetsk for their group stage matches, I can guarantee they will bring plenty of passion; and they will be primed to have a good time. But they won’t be looking for trouble.

The image of England fans as rowdy hooligans is as outdated as Soviet-era images of London fog – which was banished by the 1956 Clean Air Act.

5 comments on “England fans are coming!

  1. Yes,Ukraine is too expensive not only for Ukrainians,but for foreigners as well. I think upcoming football championship will be conducted by Ukraine’s authorities no bad,but we Ukrainians,may display ourselves from better side. I am afraid to say,but for all fans a little frustration is waiting here. And when it happens to visit Ukraine again,they will think twice before coming here.

  2. Good to know that England fans are friendly nowadays. Or at least have such strong advocate, Mr Turner! 🙂 I wish journalists from “the Sun” were professionals like you, because their weird stories about fake nazi fans and their hate camps are ridiculous.

    2Duncan: when I’ve been to Beijing right after Olympic Games in 2008 local sellers sold me sweatshirt for 300 yuans while its real price was 30. Its not about whole nation but about single merchants and companies

  3. “England beat Paraguay 1-0 in Frankfurt. – on some estimates, 25,000 fans in the ground alone.” I’d say more like 90k.
    As having 4 World Cups and 5 Euro’ championships under my belt. I’d agree on the 90k figure that was also branded about.
    And as for what Ukraine has in store for England fans… simple, 1000%+ inflated price’s, unfortunately.
    Well at least I won’t get hammered by there pricing policy. : -)
    Come on England ! :

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.