Already stretched French police must also deal with risk of hooligan violence
Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30
Hooliganism is making a comeback and the timing could be bad, with four high-risk matches in the first week of the European Championship in a country where the police force is already under huge strain.
Should one or more of these matches - England v Russia in Marseille on June 11; Turkey v Croatia the next day; and England v Wales and Germany v Poland both on June 16 - descend into violence, the football itself could quickly become overshadowed.
Police forces in France have been stretched since last November's deadly terror attacks that killed 130 people. The last thing French authorities need is thugs causing mayhem.
However, in the past two months alone there has been an increase in soccer violence around Europe.
At the French Cup final, fans managed to sneak flares and objects into the Stade de France, despite a two-metre high security wall and triple security checks, while others tried to invade the pitch, raising serious concern ahead of Euro 2016, where the opening match between France and Romania takes place on June 10. In Germany, too, several hundred fans from Dynamo Dresden were held back by riot police to stop them attacking bitter rivals Madgdeberg in a third-division match in April, and mass arrests were made in May during the troublesome local derby between Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
In Sunday's League One play-off final at London's Wembley, fights broke out among supporters; Rangers and Hibernian fans poured onto the field to do battle at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup final; - a worrying throwback to the mid-1980s when hooliganism blighted Britain; Liverpool and Sevilla fans traded punches in the Europa League final in Switzerland; and FC Zurich thugs charged down the tunnel last Wednesday to try to attack their own players following relegation, and then battled riot police outside. Although centred on inter-club rivalries, these troubles highlight how hooliganism has been creeping back after several years of good behaviour.
This season, the Europa League has been hit with football violence with heavy fighting between fans of Italian side Napoli and Polish club Legia Warsaw, street battles between fans of Spanish side Athletic Bilbao and Marseille, and riots in Amsterdam when Ajax played Turkish club Fenerbahce.
A further 10 matches at Euro 2016 are identified as risky and there will be increased border controls and tighter security at train stations and airports, in addition to eight police spotters from each country to identify potential hooligans.
"All of those who are subject to a banning order will be prevented from leaving their country by their local police in so far as their legislation allows," said Antoine Boutonnet, the head of French police's anti-hooliganism division.
"Furthermore, we have gathered information on potential risks and will continue to do so during the tournament."
But hooligans show determination and ingenuity to avoid police detection.