England fans on ‘yellow card’ before Euro 2004 kick-off

Hooliganism has marred previous Euro football finals but the hope
is that the Portuguese authorities’ ‘softly softly’ approach plus
the UK governments’ banning orders add up to a trouble-free
tournament.

Beckham and England fans in particular will be hoping that the
Portuguese authorities’ softly softly approach and the UK
governments’ banning orders mean England’s footballing destiny is
decided on the pitch. And there has been no shortage of measures to
help ensure that Euro 2004 is as trouble-free a football tournament
as possible.

Portuguese authorities are said to be distributing advisory
leaflets at airports with regard to behaviour and alcohol. Here are
three key features of their security efforts to prevent outbreaks
of violence:

  • Roving ‘spotters’, who know who the potential troublemakers
    are, will be among the supporters. Their job is to point out these
    troublemakers to the police.
  • Desk-based liaison officers from ‘high risk’ teams (eg England,
    Germany, the Netherlands) will help Portuguese police with
    information on how best to deal with troublemakers.
  • Courts in towns where matches are taking place will be open for
    24 hours in case of trouble.

A Portuguese diplomatic source close to the dossier said that
although 2,500 hooligans who wanted to come to Euro 2004 had had
their passports withdrawn for the duration of the tournament, the
authorities were anticipating that 500 may well get through. Once
spotted, they would be apprehended and deported, added the
source.

A series of activities to help tackle racism and xenophobia at
UEFA EURO 2004 will also be launched by the Football Against Racism
in Europe ( FARE) network with the support of UEFA, the European
Union, players and supporter organisations from across the
continent. FARE, UEFA EURO 2004 and the EU’s European Monitoring
Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) are hosting a lunch
reception in Porto to announce measures such as a hotline for fans
to report racism or xenophobia, a series of fans’ embassies for the
supporters of eight countries and a multilingual anti-racist
fanzine.

John Williams, a senior lecturer at Leicester University whose
research interests feature football fan behaviour, explains Belgian
police were very angry towards England fans especially because of
Heysel [the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus in 19
when part of the stadium collapsed killing a number of Italian
fans] and the way it reflected badly on the Belgian authorities. He
adds that Portuguese police have adopted a different approach based
on giving people “the benefit of the doubt” but having people in
reserve to deal with serious trouble rather than expecting it.

The UK Home Office has poured five million pounds sterling into
intelligence-led policing (such as securing banning orders for
suspected hooligans) and operations at ports to help identify
potential trouble-makers. Over 2,000 banning orders have been
issued to known or suspected hooligans stopping them from attending
domestic or international matches. According to the BBC, 67
operations in 28 police forces have led to 134 banning orders being
issued since August. The Guardian reports that the English FA have
bought up UEFA’s entire allocation for England to ensure that only
fans who have passed police checks can obtain them.

But all these efforts may still not be enough. “If you judge it
by history, it has all the ingredients for trouble – it’s a
tournament in continental Europe, England fans are involved and
it’s a well-known holiday destination,” said Professor
Williams.

Looking to the future, Professor Riordan, a former player and an
expert on football in Russia and former Communist countries, says
that: “Hooliganism reached a ‘peak’ during Euro 2000 in Holland and
Belgium but is broadly speaking on the way down in western Europe.
However, it’s on the up in former Communist countries as they
discover the ‘thrills’ and excitement of fights. It’s not so much
of problem with the countries that have just been accepted into the
EU as with countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia
& Montenegro and Kosovo.”

 

The European football championships in Italy in 1980, in Germany
in 1988 and in Sweden in 1992 were all marred by a minority of
unruly fans. Euro 2000 in Belgium and Holland was also blighted by
controversy with hundreds of England fans rioting and complaints of
heavy-handed tactics by the Belgian police.

This time round the authorities appear determined to avoid any
repetition of these ugly scenes. Portugal is reported to have
increased the budget for security by two million euro in April "to
meet all the security requirements of spectators of and
participants in the tournament". In addition the Portuguese
government has suspended the Schengen agreement for the duration of
the tournament, which means that EU citizens will all need to show
their passports to get into the country (see

EURACTIV 27 May
2004
). 

In the run-up to the Euro 2004 football championships, the
Council approved a report evaluating the implementation of a
Council Decision on security for football matches with an
international dimension (see

EURACTIV 3 May 2004  ). 

A total of around 500,000 spectators are expected to be at the
championships, including some 50,000 England supporters (more than
for any other nation) are expected to travel to Portugal for the
tournament.

English, German and Dutch fans are widely considered to be the
worst potential offenders with England having a particularly bad
record in recent times. Matters came to a head when the Foreign
Office said English fans would not be allowed access to England's
Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in October 2003. Following
UEFA's threat to throw England out of the competition if there are
serious incidences of violent behaviour, the national team's
manager Sven Goran Eriksson has publicly appealed to fans to behave
themselves. Just before the start of Euro 2004, the release of a
film about hooliganism, 'The Football Factory' has sparked
controversy in the UK with the Guardian describing it as
irresponsible. Some say that it casts the hooligan culture in too
positive a light.

“I don’t think we’ll see that degree of hooliganism from England
fans at Euro 2004 because of security efforts such as tracking
known hooligans and segregating fans,” said James Riordan, Honorary
Professor of Sports Studies at the Stirling University.

 

  • The Euro 2004 football championships begin on 12 June
    2004.
  • From a hooliganism point of view, particularly 'high risk'
    matches include England v France on 13 June and Germany v Holland
    on 15 June.

 

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