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The European Response to Football Hooliganism

The European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in Particular Football Matches

The main document relating to football hooliganism is the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in Particular Football Matches. This was drafted by the Council of Europe as a response to the Heysel stadium disaster of 1985. The need for the treaty was the frequency of football matches between national and club teams from European states. It aims to get organisations and authorities to work together to ensure safety and orderly conduct at sporting events. There is also an aim to prevent and control violence and misbehaviour by spectators at football matches through the co-ordination of policies and the actions of government departments and public agencies against these problems and the possibility of setting up co-ordinating bodies to do this. The convention puts a number of measures to deal with the problem of hooliganism. They include:

  • Securing adequate public order resources to counter outbreaks of violence and misbehaviour, both within the immediate vicinity of and inside stadia and along the transit routes used by spectators
  • Facilitating close co-operation between the police forces of the different localities involved
  • Applying or adopting legislation which provides for those found guilty of offences related to violence or misbehaviour by spectators to receive appropriate penalties.

The convention also makes recommendations regarding the organisation of supporters clubs, the organisation of travel arrangement and the design of stadia. It was one of the first ways in which there was police co-operation between different European states over football hooliganism. Although the TREVI organisation dealt with football hooliganism to a certain extent from its founding, this was the first time a convention had been written to deal with it. The Council of Europe continues to be interested in the question of football hooliganism. A report written in 1999 showed that there was still a major problem with hooliganism in Europe. Although the convention is still considered the appropriate framework for co-operation over hooliganism, it does identify a number of changes that have occurred since then.

  • A more deliberate seeking out of confrontations by hooligans. The use of weapons and drugs are now also associated with hooligans
  • An increase in hooligan planning, mobilisation, co-ordination and organisation. More experienced hooligans play an important role as do modern means of communication (mobile phones, the internet)
  • Confrontations increasingly occur outside football grounds

The Council of Europe recommends to main forms of co-operation to deal with hooliganism. The first is the use of police co-operation along the lines of the European Commission Handbook for international police co-operation and measures to prevent and control violence and disorder around football matches. The second is to establish permanent football intelligence units in each country and facilitating regular consultations between them. The Council of Europe sees the key to preventing hooliganism to be greater co-operation between the police of the countries involved. They cite the example of the World Cup in the USA in 1994 as a tournament that was not marked by violence but by strong co-operation between police and fans. Intelligence is an important factor in dealing with major international sporting events. There needs to be a trend towards co-operation before and during matches and championships. However this is not at its maximum and could be improved in order to reduce hooliganism at future compeitions. There needs to be long term co-operation between police forces in order to prevent trouble at occasional championships. The Council of Europe seems to take an active role in the co-operation of police forces regarding football hooliganism. It criticised the amount of hooliganism that occurred at the World Cup in 1998. However, it praised the Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in Particular Football Matches for reducing the amount of hooliganism in Europe.

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Created by James Rowlands on Dreamweaver for The Politics of Policing Transnational Crime, University of Exeter 2001. E-mail J.P.Rowlands@exeter.ac.uk