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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK banner
Facing up to the thugs
Organisers will be hoping for a more subtle police presence
BBC sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar looks at the security problem for the joint hosts of Euro 2000.

For the organisers of major football championships these days, getting the games played on time and in the right place is only a small part of the story - a huge amount of time and effort has gone into planning the security operation for Euro 2000.

The issue has been more complex than usual simply because the process involved two different countries, two separate police forces, two judicial systems.

There is a common aim, however - a trouble-free tournament with football, and not fighting, making the headlines.

Trouble and international football have become inextricably linked - so there can be no more denying the problem, in the hope it'll go away

Gordon Farquhar
So how do you go about achieving that?

Well, firstly, blind optimism over preventing hooliganism has been replaced with a healthy pragmatism.

Trouble and international football have become inextricably linked - so there can be no more denying the problem, in the hope it'll go away.

Better instead to accept the fact that there will be trouble - and work out a co-ordinated policy to deal with it.

Joined-up thinking

Evidence of such "joined-up thinking" has finally emerged.

Looking at this from the English perspective, for the first time, the Government, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the FA, and the various fans groups are singing from the same song-sheet.

This time, the FA and the country's supporters groups have been closely co-operating to deliver a "Football YES , Violence NO" message that's involved goodwill visits to Holland and Belgium, meetings with German supporters groups, organising 5-a-side competitons and much more besides, they've been busy.

So have NCIS, and their Football Unit, gathering intelligence from a network of officers connected to each and every professional club in the country.

Everything they can usefully say has been passed on to their Belgian and Dutch counterparts.

Football YES, Violence NO

In the wake of the violence in Marseille during France 98, the Home Office introuduced tougher legislation to address the hooliganism problem.

Under those laws 99 known hooligans, who have been convicted of football related violence abroad, are subject to International Banning Orders.

Their passports will either be confiscated for the duration of the tournament, or they will have to report to police stations regularly.

Police want to avoid confrontations like this
In addition, the details of all 416 people subject to Domestic Banning Orders have been passed on.

While it's difficult for them to be prevented from leaving the country, it's entirely up to the Belgian and Dutch authorites if they want to turn them back at the border and they will.

Crucially, NCIS have also produced information about hundreds more individuals who have never been convicted of football violence, but are strongly suspected of it.

Again, it's intelligence the Dutch and Belgian police will be at liberty to act on - and they've been urged to do so by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Police forces throughout Europe have been offering simmilar help to the organisers.

Their spotters will be observing at all major border crossings but it would be naive to think that some won't get through, and so the potential for trouble remains.

Anti-touting clampdown

As others have tried before them, notably in during the world cup in France two years ago, the authorities are attempting to run a black-market free competition - and a number of measures have been implemented:

  • There are dire warnings about huge fines for ticket touting.
  • Tickets have mostly been issued with names printed on them.
  • These will be checked on the way to the turnstiles, against proof of identity, and if the two don't match up, ejection and a fine are possible.

In practise, in France, the black market thrived, and exploited those desparate to see a game almost at any price - and I don't expect things to be very different in Holland and Belgium.

Tens of thousands will ignore the advice not to travel without a ticket, and turn up in hope.

Hope is the key word in all of this.

Hope springs eternal

The hosts hope the biggest security operation ever mounted for a football tournament will be an adequate deterrent to the hooligans.

And if it isn't, they'll be hoping they are sufficiently equiped to deal with any trouble.

They are confident enough now - but three weeks is a long time in football.

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | England
English 'hooligans' refused entry
07 Jun 00 | Fans Guide
Belgian authorities back Charleroi
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