Researchers predicted violence

June 23, 2000

The hooliganism that has marred the Euro 2000 football championship was inevitable and is too deep-rooted a problem to be resolved by traditional measures, football researchers have warned.

Experts at Leicester University's centre for research into sport and society pointed out this week that hooliganism is not just a problem in England. It is also an issue in the championship's host countries, Holland and Belgium, as well as in Germany, which topped the European "hooliganism league" in a recent Council of Europe report.

Eric Dunning, professor of sociology, had predicted before the first kick-off that there would be trouble - particularly at the "inadequate" Charleroi ground, where England played Germany last Saturday.

He said: "The potential for violent disorder in the context of Euro 2000 was considerable because contrary to the prevailing view, the problem of football hooliganism has not been cured or gone away, either as a domestic or international problem.

"Football hooliganism is a complex and deep-rooted problem and is unlikely to yield to the sort of politics that have been used in an attempt to control it so far."

Professor Dunning said the fact that Holland and Belgium are small countries, where travel is easy and fan groups were likely to meet up, increased the likelihood of trouble at Euro 2000.

The system of ticket distribution that was used, which was unlikely to result in full supporter-group segregation, and the size of grounds, were also bound to pose serious problems.

Mike Rowe, lecturer in policing at Leicester's Scarman centre, said closing pubs and bars and a full ban on drinking around the championship's sites would have been a sensible measure. Similar tactics used by British police at matches where trouble was expected had proved to be effective.

The "zero tolerance" approach adopted by Belgian police may have made the incidents seem worse than they really were, resulting in hundreds of arrests, he said. But there was no "quick fix" solution.

"In the long run, we have to look at the underlying causes,which are linked to drinking, masculinity and social identity," he said.

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