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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Euro 2000: Ask Paul Anderson

BBC Correspondent Paul Anderson is in Eindhoven soaking up the atmosphere at Euro 2000 in the build-up to England's first match of the tournament.

Click on the link below to watch Paul answer a selection of your questions in a live forum.

Read a transcription of the highlights of the forum below.

Keith Jones, Barnsley, UK: What's the atmosphere like there amongst rival fans? Is there a general feeling of good camaraderie?

Paul Anderson: I think it's fair to say there is camaraderie - far beyond most people's expectations. We did have some trouble in Brussels on the first night back on Saturday, but that wasn't between rival fans. That was between the Belgian fans after their first match who were trying to get to the centre of Brussels to celebrate their victory, and the Belgian police who were anxious not to let them get to those bars and clubs in the centre of Brussels.

After that we've had one or two incidents. There was one incident yesterday between youths supporting Turkey, and those supporting Italy, just north of the game in Arnham in the Netherlands. At the match itself there was no rivalry at all apart from the normal rivalry you'd expect at an international football match. In fact if anything the opposite was the case, we saw lots of posters and vans driving around Arnham saying "meet a fan, make a friend".

They're also selling these rather silly football hats in the shape of a football with the national emblem around the rim. The effort seems to be by the various local authorities to turn this tournament into something of a party. So that people can have fun and enjoy the tournament for what it is - a tremendous showcase for footballing excellence - but also to take the violence and aggression out of the air.

Barbara Smedley, Liverpool, UK: How are the locals reacting to the invasion of fans - are local bars and businesses shutting up shop?

Paul Anderson: It's very difficult to tell at the moment because this competition started over the weekend, and the shops would be shut anyway and the bars and cafes open to take the city promenading trade in. It looks as though the shops which couldn't expect to make any money out of the competition will stay closed. But the bars, cafes, hotels, restaurants and night spots will all stay open.

They're all anxious to make the most of Euro 2000 in terms of what they can earn, from literally more than a million fans passing through their towns during the competition.

They've been in very close consultation with the local authorities and the police to find a way for them to be allowed to stay open and reap the trading benefit that is undoubtedly here. But at the same time to make sure they allow the police to be able to exercise the control they need.

They've co-operated with the police for example over the matter of alcohol strength. Here in Eindhoven and other locations they're selling half strength alcohol, so that fans when they go to the matches, don't go tanked up and ready for violence because the alcohol is too strong. The police are hoping that will take the steam out of any potential violence. I think most traders are hoping that this competition can go off without major crowd disturbance in their city and can reap the maximum economic benefits that I think undoubtedly await them.

Colin Green, Holland: I've been reading that thousands of fans will be arriving in Eindhoven without tickets - how are the police planning on coping with them?

Paul Anderson: It is a big concern. The official ticket allocation for the English fans was something like 7,000 tickets altogether. The police and the city authorities expect anything between 15,000 - 20,000 English fans to descend on the city. That means somewhere between 8,000 - 13,000 fans will be in Eindhoven without any tickets.

Probably the majority of them will be absorbed into the bars and cafes where they're showing the match on wide screen. There will be probably be giant screens set up in various parks where the fans can watch the match as well. But the police still expect a certain number of fans to try and get into the stadium, which has a maximum capacity of 33,000.

The police yesterday and today were saying don't bother trying, we've anticipated that problem, you won't get in, stay away it'll be far easier and you'll have a better chance of actually seeing the match. They've said that they will impose unspecified measures on those trying to get in. We know that there is a fairly effective perimeter around the stadium, and I suspect that will be manned by a very intensive police force when the match actually starts. But the main advice from the police, to those without a ticket, is enjoy yourself and watch it on television.

Tom Lowcock, England: Out of the three Group A opponents, who do England seem to fear the most, if any??

Paul Anderson: Kevin Keegan thinks that England has drawn the worst draw possible of all the four groups. He thinks that all three teams that England will be playing are particularly strong, and that in the other groups the leading teams will have a far easier chance of making it through to the final rounds.

As far as the match against Portugal is concerned, I think that the English are very worried about the Portuguese flair in the forward part of their team, about their very strong strike potential. But Kevin Keegan has come out and said they're going to meet like with like. He has announced that the English team tactics will be to push forward and go for top goal scoring opportunities.

I think probably the Germany-England match is going to be the toughest. Although top commentators, while not exactly writing them off as a spent force, are saying they are nothing like the force that they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Probably the match against Romania, England will be most relaxed about, but having said that it won't be truly relaxed until it has got its place in the next round.

Stephen Crickley, Manchester, England: Do you think there is a serious hooligan problem just waiting to manifest itself at this tournament, or is it just over-hyped?

Paul Anderson: It may well be over-hyped with the police hard talk and also with the media as well. We've seen in the build-up to this competition many stories and interviews with known hardened-thugs, who've promised they're going to do what they can to disrupt this competition and create violence. These are experienced hooligans, they have the internet and mobile phone systems at their disposal, and they seem to have a very well organised network.

It should be said that we haven't seen their operations yet, but the police and the media are focusing their attention on the potential flashpoints for later on. I think that the Germany - England match will be very heavily policed and watched very closely by the international media covering this event.

There are also other potential flashpoints - the Turks travel in great numbers to these matches and we've seen earlier this year what sort of action they were in with then English fans.

Matthew Wegner, North London, England: How big is the ticket touting problem for this game?

Paul Anderson: It seems to be quite a big problem. We've heard from the city authorities in Eindhoven that some arrests have been made for ticket touts. They want to clamp down very hard on ticket touting because it undermines security ultimately. Portions of stadiums are allocated according to the allocation of tickets, and touts cut right though that and allow rival fans to get into different pockets of different stadiums.

As soon as I arrived in Eindhoven I was surreptitiously asked if I'd like to buy a ticket for this evening's game. The tickets being sold by the touts appear to be passing hands for anything up to 600, so there's big money to be made. The police are on the look out for ticket touts and while obviously they won't be able to stop everybody, they hope they'll stop as many as possible.

Derek Reid, West London, UK: How are the Dutch media and public reacting to last night's below par performance by their side? Or does the fact that a win-is-a-win-is-a-win over rule all?

Paul Anderson: I think the fans view the task faced by the footballers as daunting, and so are prepared to extend their sympathy. I think there's also recognition that this was the first match that the Netherlands played yesterday and it takes a while to warm up.

Let's not forget that Holland won 1-0, it might have been with a penalty but it was a beautifully struck penalty. I think they'll be looking to the next few matches to watch the performance of their team as a whole, before they come down hard. In Eindhoven and many other locations around Holland there was nothing but jubilation from fans, and that's got to say something about their reaction to their team's performance.

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