testAfter nearly two years of struggling against the mandatory Fan ID card, Turkish football fans can now start preparations to celebrate a successful campaign for their rights.

The mandatory Fan ID Card system Passolig was introduced in 2014/2015. The background is the definition of the electronic ticket in the law 6222 (Preventing Violence and Disorder in Sports Areas) which was approved by the parliament on 14 April 2011. In the law the electronic ticket was defined as an electronic card which keeps the ID number of the citizen only. But the introduction of Passolig went far beyond this definition, which is also one of the main objections of the fan lawyers.

“Passolig” is a trademark owned by a dedicated bank called Aktifbank. Additionally, the fans should provide detailed ID info (including family status, residence, occupation etc.) as well as a personal photo and they should pay not only for the ticket but also for the Passolig card to the bank. Interesting detail: the bank was just newly established. Nobody was a customer there before Passolig was established and the bank is owned by the son in law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Furthermore, high tech security cameras were installed in all stadia and high tech electronic identification systems (for face and ID info detection at the gates) were introduced in the two top divisions of the professional Turkish football league.

THE FANS’ PROTEST

The fans’ reaction to Passolig came rather quickly. Fan lawyers of FSE members from Taraf-Der (Fans Rights Solidarity Union) filed a complaint with the consumers’ rights court in Ankara just after the introduction of the system. From the beginning, they received backing and support from their fellow supporters from other countries organised in Football Supporters Europe (FSE).

After a couple of weeks already, in September 2014, the Consumers’ Rights Court decided that Passolig is violating the consumers’ rights laws and the system needed to be suspended. However, the TFF (Turkish Football Federation) declared that it was impossible to implement this decision and consequently, there was utter chaos for a couple of weeks. At the same time, and again with the help of the fan lawyers from Taraf-Der, numerous football fans filed complaints individually with the Advertisement Regulatory Board of Turkey which decided to ban the advertisements of Passolig in the media, as they were judged as spreading misleading information and cheating on the customers. In the light of these developments, fan groups and fan associations like Taraf-Der and THD (Fans Rights Union) across the country united and called for all Turkish fans to boycott the Passolig system.

As a result of this call of the supporter organisations, and due to massive infrastructural problems upon entry to the stadia (bureaucratic hurdles with obtaining tickets or face detection systems that slowed down entry at the gates), Turkish clubs saw a dramatic drop in the number of fans attending the matches. During season 2014-2015, numbers dropped by 50 % on average and some top division clubs lost up to 90 % of their crowd.

In addition, the bank behind Passolig declared that their aim was to sell more than one million cards with the start of  season 2014/2015. In reality, they reached this number only after two years. However, there are still rumours about the official number of cards sold, as the top division’s total average attendance remains at 79.000 per week. This is still significantly lower than before Passolig and far below the number of official Passolig card sales. As a result, many of the club presidents begun to oppose the system, including presidents of major clubs such as Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. The fans’ reactions against the system also alerted the sponsors. As a consequence, Ülker, the main sponsor of Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and TFF announced to cancel their football-related sponsorship deals in January 2015, stating the loss of popularity of professional football as main reason for their withdrawal.

One of the main arguments of the fan lawyers against the ticketing system was the lack of protection provided towards the personal ID information of the fans. On 2 November 2014, just before the derby match Beşiktaş JK vs Fenerbahçe, all Passolig card owners’ personal ID information became suddenly accessible because of a fatal IT error on the Passolig website. This incident certainly strengthened the argument of the fan lawyers.

One of the main points put forward in favour of Passolig was that the system could end black market ticket sales before the matches. However, the electronic ticketing system couldn’t cure this major problem. Black market ticket sales just changed their format. They now were sold online. Fenerbahçe SK even made an official statement on 6 March 2015 warning its supporters of black market tickets sold on the internet.

The fans’ struggle also affected the political scene in the following days. Just before the national elections in June 2015 and November 2015, the two opposition parties CHP and HDP, publicly committed themselves to terminate the Passolig system as part of their pre-election statements. Again, this can be considered an achievement of the fans’ protests – it was the first time in Turkish political history, that fan-related matters reflecting the football fans’ wishes appeared electoral statements.

Parallel to these developments, there was still a court case pending: the Customers’ Rights Court of Ankara decided on 18 November 2014 to pass on the case to the Turkish Constitutional Court, the highest-ranking court in Turkey. The court should judge on whether the current fan ID card system was violating the Turkish constitution or not. The Consumer Right’s Court proposed to cancel the Passolig system and also the underlying law 6222. One year later, in November 2015, the Constitutional Court of Turkey finally discussed the case. However did not release the official desicion. But finally the official declaration have been released on 16th of December by the Constitutional Court.

According to this desicion from now on, TFF or the football clubs can not assign their rights to sell and marketing tickets to the third parties and can not share the personal ID informations of the fans with the third parties also. This means as like before the Passolig times, TFF and the football clubs should be the only responsible parties to sell the tickets. This developement had been interperented as the end of the Passolig application, which is a trade mark of the Aktifbank, by the fan lawyers. Again according to the fanlawyers, now the Consumers Rights Court should cancel the deal with Aktifbank. As Taraf-Der and FSE, we all invite all supporters to attend the trial and give support to the fan lawyers on 9th of December in Ankara.

Consequently, the desicion of the Consumers Rights Court had been delayed once more again because of the lack of official declaration of the Constitutional Court. However, it is expected to get a result with the desicion of the court on 2nd of March. As Taraf-Der and FSE, we all invite all supporters to attend the trial and give support to the fan lawyers on 9th of December in Ankara.

Our power comes from our unity!

More background articles:

Middle-East-Soccer Blog – Turkish soccer: Illiberal President Erdogan’s latest victim

Research Turkey - Government and Fans Battle in Court and on the Pitch in Egypt and Turkey

Middle East Eye – Could Turkish Football Collapse?

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