International - Written by on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 14:41 - 0 Comments

Catch 22 for England fans heading to the European Championship?

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Earlier this week England fans descended on Ukraine to watch the England football team’s better than expected 1-1 draw in their opening Euro 2012 game against France.  More are anticipated.

But questions are being asked about the UK Government advice given to fans about what to expect when travelling into Ukraine for the tournament.

The England Pukka Pies-sponsored band were prevented at the France match from entering the Donbass Arena in Donetsk with their instruments – despite the Football Association reportedly having done a deal enabling them to provide their usual musical accompaniment. We can only speculate on how England’s performance may have been affected and what the result might have been…*

On a more serious note, away from the pitch at the Ukrainian border, The Times reported Monday [paywall] that England fans arriving together in hired camper vans have been asked by officials to park them in a car park, walk across the border, and catch the bus to the match.

The reason? Under Ukrainian law vehicle ownership documents must be carried by drivers.  A car hire agreement is not enough.  A fact which the UK Foreign & Commonwealth confirms on its website.  Everyone, including the border officials, agree on the inherent unlikelihood that car rental companies will hand over the documents of title to shiny new vehicles worth £50,000 or more.

The Times reported that officials relented after a lengthy wait and let the Times reporter David Brown AKA ‘the fan in a van’ enter the Ukraine in his camper van.

However, The Times reported that a German official drafted in from the EU to help said that some have paid to avoid the inconvenience of having to leave the camper van at the border.

Fans are being placed in an unenviable position.

It is unclear if the payments allegedly being made by some are lawful or not and FCO guidance does little to assist the travelling fan.

How does the FCO help to spot the ball?

In its travel advice, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office acknowledges that:

“Corruption remains a major problem in Ukraine. If you think you have been mistreated by an official body then you should report your case to the police or State Officials:
Ukrainian Immigration hot-line: +380 44 527-63-63 (in Ukrainian)
Ukrainian Police Force – you can report it to the General Prosecutor’s office in writing only, www.gp.gov.ua (in Ukrainian);
Customs – + 38 044 247 2719, dovira@customs.gov.ua;
State Officials – contact Organized Crime Department (Guboz) on tel. +38 044 362 8327, 222 6812, 521 6628, www.guboz.gov.ua (in Ukrainian).”

And the British Embassy in Ukraine also addresses the issue of original vehicle documentation.  When driving in the Ukraine its web page advises:

“You must have original vehicle registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers available at all times. These will be required if you are stopped by the police and, in particular, when crossing borders. This also applies to rental vehicles.  If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this.”

The lack of clarity surrounding the claimed requests for payment is unsatisfactory for England fans on its own, let alone the situation if the payment requests are unofficial.

We have contacted the British Embassy and await its response.

In the meantime, the Euro 2012 tournament provides an opportunity for the FCO to demonstrate how it can practically assist British nationals and businesses travelling abroad with anti-corruption guidance when faced with demands like this and how to deal with them.

We hope the response from the Embassy is more useful than the guidance on the FCO website.

* To be fair the band has its critics – As Jimmotep said about the band in the youtube comments thread:

“It’s about time these irritating self obsessed idiots were stopped ruining the atmosphere at international games for normal England fans. They add nothing to game and just annoy the hell out of the poor sods who have to sit anywhere near them and endure their cacophony of mediocrity. Any chance of giving the guy from the Donbass Arena the Stadium management job in Brazil 2014?”!.

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