Djurgården's opening match of the 2014 Allsvenskan season, in the southern Swedish city of Helsingborg, was abandoned after a fan died from injuries sustained in an assault before the game. This tragedy highlighted the fact that Swedish football has a responsibility to act on the issue of football-related disorder. Under circumstances surrounding similar high-profile tragedies, there have been pressures to advocate measures that are punitive and repressive.
This unfortunate incident gave birth to ENABLE, a research project that aims to create and sustain a climate of evidence-gathering and analysis. The project will take into account the preferences and perspective of the supporters on what constitutes a pleasant and entertaining matchday experience, while examining ways of developing adequate security measures in order to protect the safety of all involved stakeholders from those who actively seek to threaten it. Through this process, ENABLE will gather objective information, identify best practices, disseminate information and suggest solutions that will improve the matchday for supporters/visitors, both at home and away matches.
At the moment the project is led by Filip Lundberg (Head of Sustainability at Djurgårdens IF), Dr Clifford Stott (member of the Security & Justice Research Group at the University of Leeds) and Jonas Havelund (member of the Department of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark). It is also supported by key participants such as Stuart Dykes (SLO Consultant to Supporters Direct Europe and UEFA), Football Supporters Europe (FSE), represented by the Swedish Football Supporters Union (SFSU), Mats Jonsson (Security Manager at Djurgårdens IF), Sammyh Khan (Research Fellow at the University of Exeter), Wayne Nash (National Safety & Security Officer at the Football Association of Wales and Head of Operations at Cardiff City FC), Carsten Alvén (dialogue police officer of the Stockholm Police), Lena Gustafson-Wiberg (SLO at Djurgårdens IF) and more.
For the purpose of evidence-gathering, a series of events has been scheduled for this season, starting in September 2014 and ending in April 2015. The first activity included a match observation in Gothenburg at the fixture between IFK Gothenburg and Djurgårdens IF on 29 September, followed by a debriefing session with representatives of the Gothenburg police with regard to the way the game was policed. On the occasion of this visit Supporters Direct Europe and UEFA SLO Consultant Stuart Dykes took the opportunity to attend three other matches (IF Elfsborg v AIK, GAIS v Degerfors IF and Malmö FF v Olympiacos) to speak to SLOs, security officers, police officers, ultras, match-going supporters and others, gaining useful insight into how dialogue between the various stakeholders takes place and the effectiveness of the SLO role in practice.
The ENABLE research project is another positive step, not only in Sweden, towards the use of common sense, dialogue, inclusion and de-escalation. It also highlights once again that in order to avoid future tragedies initiatives and actions should be taken from all sides (the police, academics, clubs, leagues, supporters, sponsors, football associations, etc) to investigate the underlying reasons of such behaviours and come up with a joint strategy and plan to isolate them and make sure the conditions in which they nurture and flourish are addressed and tackled.
Supporters Direct Europe will be following the ENABLE research project closely and will communicate any updates and key accomplishments in due course. Our wish is that European football will support and help to expand this initiative and continue to facilitate engagement between all stakeholders in order to avoid tragedies such as the one in Helsingborg elsewhere.