Study: Crowd dynamics, policing and ‘hooliganism’ at Euro 2004

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

A research project by the Economic and Social Research Council supports the ‘low profile’ policing approach adopted by the Portuguese authorities during the Euro 2004 football championships.

‘Low impact’ policing is the key to overcoming ‘hooliganism’ at major international football tournaments, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. 

It found that while preventing known troublemakers from travelling is important, the way to foster incident-free events is a ‘low profile’, friendly-but-firm police presence, and dealing with fans on the basis of their behaviour not their reputation.  

The report shows that when England supporters are treated from the outset as fans rather than ‘hooligans’, they see themselves as on the same side as the police, sharing the same interest in preventing violence. 

Faced with this ‘low profile’ policing approach, ordinary fans are more likely to oppose trouble among other supporters through ‘self-policing’, and to regard themselves as friends with fans from other nations. 

The findings give a definite ‘thumbs up’ to the ‘low profile’ tactics adopted by Portugal’s Public Security Police (PSP), in line with advice given to the force by the Liverpool psychologists before the tournament.  

The study, led by Dr Clifford Stott and Dr Otto Adang of the University of Liverpool School of Psychology, analysed the impact of police tactics on levels of hooliganism at Euro 2004 – the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) championships held in Portugal in June and July of last year.

Researchers included a team of observers from the Portuguese Police Academy and the Universities of Coimbra, Oporto and Lisbon. 

Dr Stott said: “Our approach was valid and useful in the planning of a successful tournament. We have also begun to understand that use of overwhelming force may manage conflict in the short term, but over time could entrench ‘hooligans’ within fan culture, and undermine critically important ‘self-policing’ efforts of legitimate fans.”

Read the full ESRC press release

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