Euro 2000 evaluation study

The European footballchampionships 2000 held in Belgium and the Netherlands were characterised by an unprecedented level of international police cooperation. A year before the start of the tournament, the project Police Expertise Euro 2000 was set up to record experiences gained and lessons learnt. The project focused on preparations, the international police cooperation effort, information management, the cooperation between police and stewards and police deployment and demeanor.

In "Policing Euro 2000: international police cooperation, information management and police deployment", Otto Adang and Christine Cuvelier report the results of the project. Download the book here (pdf, 572 kB)

The research and evaluation project was unique in several ways:
-the evaluation had been carefully planned beforehand and was based on data gathered explicitly for the purpose
        of evaluating;
-the data were gathered in a systematic and stuctured way with a maximum of objectivity;
-the project was aimed fully at learning for the future, and not at accountability;
-the project had a European perspective and input from police officers from other European countries involved in
        Euro 2000 was explicitly sought.

"Policing Euro 2000" is the well written and highly accessible result of this innovative attempt to give police forces and police authorities involved in the organisation of large-scale international events with public order implications acces to valuable experiences.

The evaluation "Policing Euro 2000" identified areas for improvement or clarification, and under Belgian presidency of the European Union, the EU-Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs adopted a new version of the handbook. ("Handbook with recommendations for international police cooperation and measures to prevent and control violence and disturbances in connection with football matches with an international dimension", Council Resolution of 6 December 2001, Official Journal C 22, 24.1.2002). See also Presentation by Heidi Deridder – Ministry of the Interior (Belgium)

Following this, the EU decided that "For exchange of information in relation to a football event and with a view to the necessary international police cooperation in connection with football matches with an international dimension, it is crucially important to establish a national football information point of a police nature in each Member State."

The results of the "Policing Euro 2000" have also been used by the UK Working group on football disorder (2001, chaired by Lord Bassam) and by the Dutch Police Football Information Point (CIV).
Otto M.J. Adang. "Friendly but firm: the maintenance of public order." Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001.

Keywords: police, collective violence, Euro 2000, riot, football violence


In international police practice, differences in the maintenance of law and order occur between police services as to their intervention methods: the approach is sometimes more preventive and proactive, on other occasions more repressive and reactive. At present, there is insufficient systematic knowledge available as regards the effects of these different approaches on the risk of occurrence and escalation of violent incidents. In 2000, the European footballchampionships were held in the Netherlands and Belgium. On the basis of results of previous systematic observational research on riots by the author (using a methodology originally developed to observe chimpanzees in the Arnhem Zoo chimpanzee colony) and on practical experiences, police authorities developed a "Police behavioural impact Euro 2000" to bring about an equal influence on the behaviour of visitors. The behavioural impact stressed that the primary approach should be preventive and proactive.

In fact, the impact was not consistently adhered to and two policing styles could be discerned, labelled "high profile public order policing" and "low profile public order policing". A clear difference existed between the two policing styles. The difference was clear both from systematic observations carried out in each of eight host cities and from the qualitative observations of foreign police officers. Characteristic of the "low profile" approach was the presence of a substantial, but limited number of police officers in daily uniform, patrolling in pairs or small groups, interacting with fans. These interactions were friendly, but transgressions by fans were responded to quickly. In the low impact approach, police deployment seemed to be based more on intelligence and on information provided by spotters' teams. For the "high profile" approach on average three times as many officers were visible in the streets. These officers were more often dressed in riot gear and accompanied by their riot vehicles; they formed larger groups, which made it less easy to approach them.

The large numbers of police present in the "high profile" cities did not correlate with a smaller number of incidents in those cities. In fact, there was no significant difference in the number of incidents in "high profile" and "low profile" cities (8% of the samples versus 7% of the samples, Chi-square test). One would expect more incidents around "increased risk" matches, but in fact, incidents were most frequent in "high profile" cities on days without increased risk! A closer inspection of the data revealed that this figure could be attributed to incidents in just one of the three "high profile" cities. Qualitative observations suggest that in this city (as opposed to others) collective police action in the form of stopping fans or removing them was frequently taken prior to (rather than as a response to) incidents.

Based on the results of this study, the "low profile", friendly but firm approach can be considered good practice. It is possible to maintain public order effectively (and efficiently, considering the fact that less officers were needed) in this way while at the same time contributing to the festive nature of an event. The "low profile" approach is not a laissez-faire approach: it involves officers actively responding at an early stage to relatively minor infractions of the preset tolerance limits. There were no differences in the "strictness" with which officers acted in high and low profile cities. The findings indicate that an approach that de-emphasises ingroup- outgroup differentiation can be effective in preventing incidents of collective aggression.

See also: Preparing for Euro 2000, 1999 background report for the Council of Europe

Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations