Churches could have a vital peacemaking role in stemming violence during this summer's World Cup finals in Germany.
Last week it was suggested that more than 700 'known English football hooligans' will be free to travel to the World Cup despite a record number of travel bans being imposed.
Neither British nor German police expect serious incidents at any of Englandís first-phase games when the tournament begins in June. A fixture against Poland or Germany in later rounds however would be seen as a potential flashpoint - particularly if tickets are hard to come by and fans meet each other on the streets.
However, Infront, a Swiss company, responsible for the TV viewing rights of the competition, has granted Germanyís Evangelical Church permission to show matches in over 16,000 churches and parish halls.
FIFA World Cup Minister George Ulrichs said ìThanks to this agreement with Infront Germanyís Evangelical Church has ensured that churches will be able to show matches on a big screen.î
As well as working with the German Evangelical Church he will be working alongside Father Hans-Gerard Schutt of the Catholic Church, co-ordinating ideas as to how the Church can play a vital role.
Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the GEC has given the project his full blessing saying that football is a ìvital fact of lifeî. To complement this unique event the GEC has put together an eighty-four page handbook of material to equip the participating churches for use during the World Cup. Included among the material are meditations on football, ideas for children's services, confirmations and even work on the theology of sport.
To celebrate the coming together of thousands of Christians from across Germany there will be a large scale cross-denominational service in Munich at the start of the contest. At the end of the World Cup there will be a themed communal event in Berlin organised by the two major churches.
Wolfgang Huber, the Council Chair of the GEC says that ìthe Christian faith has to do with the whole of human life, and thus, in events in which people are involved, the church must be there, alongside peopleÖî
The outlook of the GEC is greeted with relief by many who fear that with the history of violent clashes between English and German fans will bring disruption to the proceedings.
Yet the theme of peace is central in itself to the World Cup, whose tag line is ìTime to Make Friendsî and it is hoped will be echoed by the ecumenical and welcoming nature of the services.
There will even be a chapel in the Berlin football stadium dedicated as a space for reflection away from the hustle and bustle of the World Cup.
Fran Race is a reporter for Ekklesia and a member of All Hallows Anglican church in Leeds.