Saturday, June 11, 2016

Violence at sporting events

I was most disappointed when listening to the radio last night that the first reports of the European Football Championships 2016 were not about the football but about violence by a minority of the "supporters" who had travelled to Marseille and  clashes with police.

Doubtless it will come out in court the extent to which the problem was due to a elements among the England fans and those from Russia or other countries, but it does not sound like anyone emerges with credit.

In the past hooliganism was a particular curse on British sporting events, so much so that the BBC comedy series "Not the Nine O'clock News" could make a joke out of proposing very extreme measures to deal with it, as seen in this clip from the early 1980's. It was funny because the level of frustration and anger in the country at the harm done by these thugs was such that many people did feel the temptation to support exceptionally harsh punishments for them.

Measures taken over the years have included much more pro-active policing, better co-operation at a local, national and international level between police forces and event organisers, more use of technology and a consistently tough line and I think we all hoped that had brought the problem under control.

All those measures were in place at Euro 2016, including the secondment of large numbers of British police officers to France to help the authorities there police England fans. But judging by the headlines this has not been as successful as we had hoped.

I don't think there is a single solution to the problem, and while taking a tough line it is important not to penalise innocent people who may actually have been caught up in disturbances. Hopefully CCTV and DNA evidence may make this less likely than in the past.

I think we have to continue with pro-active policing and a tough line, including greater use of life bans from attending sporting fixtures, including the confiscation of passports at the time of major international sporting events, for those who can be proved to be the worst offenders.

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