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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Former hooligan offers Euro advice
By Margaret Ryan
BBC News Online

Reformed hooligan Dougie Brimson, author of a number of football books, is confident Euro 2004 will be trouble-free as long as the police adopt a "softly, softly" approach and create the right atmosphere.

Dougie Brimson
Dougie Brimson: Trouble-makers are in the minority
Record numbers of suspected hooligans are being banned from travelling to Portugal and a huge security operation is under way.

But for Mr Brimson that misses the point.

"We need to stop concentrating on the negative - 60,000 England people will be going and of those probably 59,000 are going to celebrate football.

"Like Sven Goran Eriksson said the fans are like the 12th man. We need to highlight the positives of English fans."

But as a former hooligan, he knows only too well that given the wrong circumstances trouble can flare up.

He has no regrets about his own past.

"It's an experience you never forget. I never got up to much but I've moved on."

He believes the motivation behind football violence varies home and abroad.

"Domestically it is about comradeship, fun, excitement and anarchy."

But abroad, he said: "There is a huge degree of self-protection, camaraderie and misplaced patriotism."

Civil liberties

He recognises the cross of St George now has negative associations.

"People get confused between patriotism, xenophobia and racism. Unfortunately they start to bleed into one," he said.

If there is a crowd of police with water canons across the road from fans, English guys will react
Dougie Brimson
He put the lack of trouble during the World Cup in Japan and Korea down to the "right mood" being created rather than a "myth" that fans could not afford to travel there.

If someone is determined to get a tournament they will find the money in his opinion.

He did accept that there was no culture of hooliganism in Japan, which also helped.

Much has been made of flashpoint England games against France and Croatia, but he thinks Germany against Holland is more likely to bring violence.

But he is outraged at the decision to ban fans from travelling to the tournament.

"It's scandalous that police in a civilised country are taking away fans' rights to leave this shore because they think they might cause problems.

"If it was anyone else, a civil liberties group would be screaming blue murder but because it's football it's OK."

He rubbished the idea that new films about football violence were making hooliganism fashionable again.

"I watched Saving Private Ryan last week but I didn't go and invade France," he said.

He is equally outraged at what he describes as the "media frenzy" surrounding such tournaments, saying the press love pictures of fans rioting.

'Chill out'

Instead he said the focus should be on police tactics which would be crucial to ensure a trouble-free tournament.

"If there is a crowd of police with water cannons across the road from fans, English guys will react."

So his advice to the authorities is "chill out".

"It looks like the police are listening. They do need to relax. When England lads travel abroad they don't change.

"We drink more. We do things in a certain way. We don't learn the languages, we don't care about foreign culture.

"We drink Guinness and eat fish and chips. We are not going to change the way we watch football."

Authorities needed to recognise that and respond accordingly.

He said as long as that was understood, policing such events would be easier.

And he is convinced that the tournament would be a less lively event without the English fans there.

"Our lads bring colour, fun and atmosphere," he said.

Hooligans: Beaten yet?
18 May 04 |  Magazine
Hooligans warned about travelling
16 Apr 04 |  West Yorkshire
Football hooligans get Euro ban
24 Mar 04 |  Lancashire


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