Our fans embassy service is already a familiar sight to followers of the national team, and we’ve followed England every step of the way through qualifying for France, making our way to Estonia, Lithuania, San Marino, Slovenia and Switzerland over the past two years.
Since we assured qualification back in the autumn of 2015, we’ve been busy. Your Free Lions team have paid visits to each of the cities where England will find themselves playing in the group stages, as well as several likely knock-out stage venues. We have established connections with the key local officials and agencies not only in Marseille, Lens and Saint-Étienne, but in all the host cities to make sure that the information and assistance we’re providing you with is accurate, up-to-date and delivered in the quickest possible fashion.
Chances are that if we don’t already know the answer to your question, we know the person who does.
Every tournament poses its own unique set of challenges, and France will be no different. While the distances between venues will be a welcome relief to those of us who’ve schlepped around South Africa, Poland-Ukraine and Brazil in recent tournaments, the sheer number of travelling fans will ensure that the logistics of travel, particularly getting reservations on limited internal flights or TGV services, could still prove problematic. And that’s before we get to the safety and security situation, following the recent terrorist attacks in France.
The fans’ embassy has always been provided by fans, for fans, and that means it’s there to help you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to every game since Italia 90 or if this is your first major tournament, or even your first England game full-stop – everyone needs that little bit of help or information sometimes.
The team will be on the ground in each of the host cities in which England are playing on matchdays, as well as a day either side, and are contactable throughout the tournament on the 24 hour helpline - +44 7956 121314
The precise locations for the fans’ embassy have yet to be confirmed at the time of going to press, but we’ll publicise the details as soon as we can on our website and through our social media channels.
As usual, we’re making our information available to fans in a number of different ways (such as this Guidebook you’re holding). The biggest repository of information will always be the FSF website –www.fsf.org.uk - unburdened as it is by page or word-count limits.
The website allows us to go into much greater detail on things that we’ve had to cram into this book, and will be constantly updated in the run-up to the tournament, and as long as England are involved.
A few of the key bits of information were not finalised when we went to print, but by the time you read this may already have been posted on the website. We’d advise you to check it regularly in the run-up to the tournament to make sure you’ve got all the information you need to know.
If you need urgent advice or assistance on the ground in France at any stage throughout the tournament (not just matchdays) and you can’t find any of our volunteers, or if it’s out of normal fans’ embassy hours, our team are contactable 24 hours a day on our usual helpline number - +44 7956 121314.
Regular travellers will be used to receiving their copy of Free Lions, the FSF’s England fanzine which is renowned for its vital local information and advice for fans (with a bit of football chat and irreverent humour thrown in for good measure).
As is usual at major tournaments, we will be producing an issue of Free Lions fresh for each and every game. This means that while you’re all toasting the latest England success or drowning your sorrows, your talented and handsome Free Lions team will already be hard at work on the next issue.
The deadlines are always tight, but the fact that we’re able to get the fanzine printed locally in France means we’re confident that we’ll be able to deliver on time, and crucially be up-to-date with developments from the last game, as well as being in a position to address any problems or concerns that England fans may have.
Once we get to kick-off, we’ll be on hand in Marseille, Lens and Saint-Étienne. Whether our services will be needed all the way to Saint Denis on the 10th July will be down to the fickle finger of fate and our performances on the pitch, but rest assured that however far England go into the tournament each and every edition will be handed out by our Fans’ Embassy volunteers in the host cities on the days either side of each England matchday.
If you’re a collector, or just want to ensure you get a pristine copy of each edition as a souvenir, you can take out a subscription. We’ll be shipping the spare copies back from France after the tournament is over.
Free Lions remains free, but we do make a small charge for postage and admin costs. Back issues of most England games are available, too. Details can be found on the website.
Twitter or Facebook content dominate the news agenda like never before, and let it not be said that the FSF doesn’t move with the times. We’ve disconnected the fax machine and recycled our pagers, and gone all mod cons. For those of you whose smartphones have become an extension of your upper appendages, you can access all our information through both our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Sometimes 140 characters are all you need, and so vitally important updates, such as the location of the fans’ embassy, ticket arrangements for knock-out fixtures, or updates on travel arrangements will not only be printed in Free Lions and updated on the website, but will also be tweeted and Facebooked.
Yet another weapon in our communications arsenal, E-Lions is the free email newsletter dedicated to all things England. We will have regular updates in the run-up to the tournament, carrying our typical blend of news, entertainment and fabulous prize giveaways*.
You can sign up for it on our website, and given it costs you nothing, why wouldn’t you?
* Prize giveaways may not be as fabulous as advertised.
The Fans’ Embassy is run by football supporters whose only interests are those of helping fellow fans. Regardless of the help we receive from the Government or local authorities, we remain independent, impartial and objective.
The service we offer is entirely confidential - we will not pass on information about any individual to either local police or UK authorities, and we are there to assist all football supporters, regardless of whether they are englandfans members or in possession of a match ticket.
How you can help
The work of the fans’ embassy revolves around information, but that is a two-way process. We have direct communication with a number of official authorities involved in the organisation of the tournament which means we’re well placed to convey information to supporters, but this also allows us to feed back the problems that supporters are facing.
Please let us know about any difficulties that you are facing – you may not be the only one in that situation, and the more we know the better placed we are to help other supporters who may be facing similar issues. If it’s a more general problem, our line of communication with the tournament authorities means we are able to raise it with them, as your issue might be something that they need to address.
We’re also here to speak up for you in the event that something goes wrong – for instance we can advise, try to arrange legal representation or consular help, and generally put you in touch with the relevant people in the event of arrest, lost passports and the like.