Psychologists help prevent hooliganism at Euro2004, 3 September 2004

Researchers who made recommendations to police in Portugal how best to deal with ‘hooliganism’ during Euro 2004 will be revealing how their insights helped keep violence to a minimum. Dr Clifford Stott and Prof Otto Adang will present their preliminary assessment of the policing of the tournament at the British Psychological Society’s Social Psychology Section Annual Conference at the University of Liverpool’s School of Psychology. Before Euro 2004, Dr Stott of the University of Liverpool and Prof. Adang of the Netherlands Police Academy worked extensively with the Public Security Police (PSP) in Portugal in their preparations for the tournament. They indicated to the PSP that low-profile, information-led policing, where officers interact with ordinary fans in a friendly manner and on the basis of fans' actual behaviour rather than their reputation, is the most effective policing strategy for reducing disorder. Dr Stott said "indiscriminate and heavy-handed policing can create rather than reduce conflict. Such policing causes fans to feel that what the police are doing is wrong. They then become united against the police and see violence not as hooliganism but as a reassertion of rights". Prof. Adang said that "Police interventions must occur before events get out of hand but must targeted only at those fans who are actually misbehaving". He added "good international police cooperation helps to achieve this, especially where those foreign police officers directly engaged with their own fans." As events during Euro2004 indicated, this theory of the effectiveness of low-profile policing was valid. In fact the only major incidents of violence occurred in an area policed by Portugal’s other police force with whom they did not share their knowledge. The researchers believe that it was the low profile policing strategy of the PSP, and not just the pre-tournament banning orders, which was decisive in minimizing hooliganism. Dr Stott states: "there were hundreds of people there who defined themselves as hooligans who were capable of becoming involved in disorder but didn’t because of the way situations were handled." Prof. Adang said what our study is showing is that "when the low profile approach is implemented it allows the majority of fans to unify against trouble. We saw lots of examples of this self-policing culture emerging among fans in Portugal and it was this that we believe led to the low levels of ‘hooliganism’". Dr Stott admits adopting the low profile approach is a risk for any police force under pressure to maintain public order at a major international football tournament: "let us not forget that almost everyone was predicting that there would be major incidents of disorder".