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Tuesday, 2 June, 1998, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Euro 96 - the model football tournament
Euro 96 logo
Euro 96 was a blueprint for successful football tournaments
The run-up to the 1996 European Championship was rife with speculation about hooliganism.

Prior to Euro 96, England's last major international football tournament was the World Cup of 1966, and the intervening 30 years had witnessed the ugly rise of yob culture and football thuggery.

There was speculation that English fans would run amok on their home territory, and stories in the press that 1,000 German hooligans were heading for the UK to settle some old scores.

In the event, Euro 96 was about as successful as a soccer tournament could be.

Women fans
Fans lapped up the carnival atmosphere
To the casual observer it all looked very easy. But behind the scenes police had been working for two years to ensure minimum trouble.

Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Malcolm George, was in charge of police operations.

"It was a tremendous success, in sporting terms, financial terms and policing," said Mr George.

Building respect

"I started work on the project two years earlier so there was a lot of preparation. There were two principle dimensions - our work in Britain and external liaison with all the other countries taking part. There had to be co-operation between all the 15 police forces of countries taking part."

Low-profile policing meant fans were not intimidated. Mr George had the idea of building respect between supporters and the police by briefing officers with useful information.

"They knew the kick-off times of matches and could offer advice on transport, accommodation and even where to get a meal. That helps to build a relationship between the two sides," he said.

Riot in London
A riot in London spolied the clean sheet
Advice and help was also available at street level through information bureaux, and Mr George encouraged airlines and ferry companies to play their part by screening information films to supporters en route to England.

Heavy-handed policing methods, commonly seen at soccer matches in the rest of Europe, were abandoned.

"We wanted to make it a sporting celebration with a carnival atmosphere," said Mr George.

Threat assessment

Predicting the turnout for games meant that police knew exactly what numbers they would be dealing with on each occasion.

A combination of low profile law enforcement was backed up with good intelligence information which "enabled accurate threat assessment to be made".

"It meant we already knew if there was the threat of criminal activity or public order offences," Mr George said.

The upshot was a largely peaceful three weeks, marred only by some rioting in London after England's defeat in the semi-finals The fighting was well away from the match.

Despite this incident, Euro 96 is widely considered to be a model football tournament and many of the policing practices established then can be found in security arrangements for this summer's World Cup in France, said Mr George.

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