In the news: Clifford Stott

June 11, 2004

Clifford Stott is jetting off to Portugal today for Euro 2004, but the next four weeks will be all work and no play for the Liverpool University lecturer in social psychology.

Dr Stott will be conducting fieldwork for a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council looking at ways of applying theories of football hooliganism to the way police behave at matches.

Dr Stott, who advised the Portuguese police on the best ways of keeping Euro 2004 crowds in order, advocates a low-key approach, in which officers mix with and relate to fans on the basis of their behaviour, not their reputation.

The approach emerged from a long-term project funded by the Home Office that examined how English football crowds were policed when they attended matches on the Continent.

"Having observed fans of English teams playing in Europe over the past three years, we found that large-scale disorder tended to emerge and escalate because indiscriminate, heavy-handed policing generated a group mentality among large numbers of fans that was based on shared perceptions that the police action was illegitimate. This had the effect of drawing ordinary fans into conflict with the police," he said.

Deploying riot police to tackle hooligans at the now infamous Euro 2000 was ineffectual, if not counterproductive: "Fans who would normally have no intention of engaging in hooliganism came to see conflict with the police as acceptable."

By using the "softly, softly" approach, Dr Stott hopes that Portugal could avoid the mistakes made in the past. Rather than simply trying to control the hooligans, officers will police matches in ways that will make large-scale disorder much less likely.

A website to gather fans' views on the policing of matches has been set up at  www.footballfans.org.uk

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