European perspective on football hooliganism
Otto Adang,
background report for the Council of Europe

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

The European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches (hereafter referred to as the European Convention) was adopted by the member States of the Council of Europe in 1985 and is considered as the appropriate framework for co-operation in the field. It is signed by 34 States and is effective in 29 States (as of March, 1999). The European Convention was adopted in the wake of the tragedy in Brussels, May 1985, when 38 people died in the Heysel stadia following spectator violence.
According to Article 1 of the European Convention, the Parties, with a view to preventing and controlling violence and misbehaviour by spectators at football matches and other sports event in which violence or misbehaviour by spectators is to be feared, undertake to take the necessary steps to give effect to a number of provisions. For the purposes of the Convention, a Standing Committee is established (article 8), which meets once or twice a year. Over the years, the Standing Committee has taken several initiatives and made a number of recommendations to refine or implement the provisions of the European Convention.
Article 2 of the European Convention states that Parties shall co-ordinate their policies and actions, where appropriate through setting up co-ordinating bodies.
Article 3 lists a number of measures, including employment of adequate public order resources (3.1.a), facilitation of close co-operation and exchange of appropriate information between police forces (3.1.b), application and adoption of legislation to punish offenders (3.1.c) and encouragement of responsible supporters' clubs and stewards from within their membership to help manage and inform spectators and to accompany travelling supporters.
Concerning stewarding, in 1999, a Standing Committee Working Party made a Draft Recommendation (No. 1/99) laying down principles on which to base a system of stewarding at sporting events with large attendances. It stipulates that stewards do not originate form supporters clubs', but have to be provided by whoever is responsible for the safety of spectators at the match. The Recommendation explicitly states functions of stewards, as well as minimum standards of recruitment, selection, training and assessment. Qualified stewards from the visiting club or country should be permitted to accompany the visiting supporters.
Other measures mentioned in Article 3 of the European Convention include the co-ordination of travel arrangements so as to inhibit potential trouble makers from leaving to attend matches (3.3) and practical measures at and within stadia to prevent or control violence and misbehaviour, including: a suitable design (3.4.a), separation of rival supporters (b), controlled sale of tickets (c), exclusion of known or potential troublemakers (d), an effective public address system (e), the restriction or ban of alcohol at stadia (f), the provision of controls to prevent spectators from bringing dangerous objects into stadia (g), and the availability of liaison officers to co-operate with authorities on crowd control (h).
Recommendation 2/87 on crowd searches explicitly stresses the importance of crowd searches to effect the controls mentioned in article 3.4.g. Recommendation 1/87 on alcohol sales and consumption recommends the extension of the provisions of article 3.4.f to include travel arrangements and, where possible, the neighbourhood of stadia before, during and after matches. Concerned by occasions when the free availability of tickets has contributed to outbreaks of spectator violence, Recommendation 1/89 provides guidelines for ticket sales and has a detailed appendix with suggestions to control the sale of tickets with a view to reducing the possibility of spectator violence. Following incidents in the United Kingdom (viz. Bradford and Sheffield), Recommendation 1/91 on the promotion of safety at stadia lays down principles and rules. In 27 points attention is given to preventive actions and the preparation of efficient responses related to: the danger of fire; the possibility of structural failures; problems inherent in the presence of large crowds.

In a 1997 statement on fences and barriers the Standing Committee notes that perimeter fences and obstacles to protect the playing area restrict views and provide a less welcoming environment. However, the removal of perimeter fences had to depend on:
- the introduction of all seater and numbered seats stadia, equipped with closed-circuit television and command and control posts;
- adequate management of ticket sales;
- the improvement of crowd control management techniques with a growing role for stewards;
- better police co-operation for the identification of potential trouble makers;
introduction of appropriate legislation, with effective sanctions for convicted offenders.

In the light of the 1998 World Cup championship the Standing Committee revised its position and its Recommendation 2/99 it recommended to proceed to the removal of fences in sports grounds.
In 1998 a discussion was started regarding bans to prevent known hooligans from entering stadia and the validity of such a ban abroad (article 3.4.d). This discussion was rendered more difficult by the differences in bans used in different countries. In some countries, bans are decided by a court. In other countries, bans are imposed by clubs or the national football authority.
Article 4 of the European Convention supplements Article 3.1.b and stresses the necessity of international co-operation, both between governments and sports authorities, especially around matches where violence or misbehaviour by spectators is to be feared. Consultations will have to take place to arrangements, measures and precautions to be taken before, during and after the match concerned.
Recommendation 3/87 on police co-operation recommends that Parties nominate correspondents: central contact point within the police for potential problems of football hooliganism. This initiative follows the nomination of permanent correspondents nominated within the European Union.
Recommendation 1/88 on the use of advisory police spotters recommends that police authorities discuss the possibilities of arranging for advisory plain-clothes policemen from visiting countries to assist local police forces on potential problems for the visiting supporters.
In Recommendation 2/91 clarifies the role of visiting police in the host country. It is recognised that responsibility for police action and the maintenance of public order remains with the host country at all times. Nevertheless, the availability of relevant information and intelligence as advice is crucial. Three types of information are necessary:
traffic information on number of spectators, dates, routes, means of travel and arrangements for accommodation;
intelligence on known troublemakers, their methods of operation and suspected intentions;
tactical intelligence identifying known troublemakers travelling to the event and actual intentions to engage in violence and disorder.

Liaison officers may be useful in observing at first hand the behaviour of supporters from their own country. Another possible role is in dealing publicly with supporters, e.g. to appeal for sensible behaviour.
Recommendation 2/88 on preparation for major events recommends that relevant police authorities consider organising before major international competitions training seminars for senior police officers on the organisation of crowd control measures. In Recommendation 2/91 it is recommended that before a major international football championship, the host country should consider organising a conference for all participating police forces to familiarise all participants with each other's plans and intentions, to establish contact with opposite numbers and to identify difficulties.
Recommendation 2/91 on international police co-operation for international football matches and tournaments is based on experiences from Euro 88 and the World Cup held in Italy in 1990) and contains detailed guidelines to implement Article 4 of the European Convention. The guidelines suggest a framework based on proven good practice.
Recommendation 1/97 on the use of standard forms for the exchange of police intelligence concerning high risk sport events follows an initiative by the European Union (Recommendation of 22 April 1996 on guidelines for preventing and restraining disorder connected with football matches) in order to prevent adoption of two different texts.
Standard forms are provided for the exchange of police intelligence concerning travelling supporters (mode and time of travel, travel route, number and type of supporters, accommodation).

Article 5 of the European Convention sees to the identification and treatment of offenders. Spectators committing acts of violence or other criminal acts have to be prosecuted. if appropriate, Parties will consider extraditing suspects, transferring proceedings to the country of residence, or having convicted persons serve their sentences in their own country.
Recommendation 1/90 on identification and treatment of offenders draws attention to the provisions of Article 5 of the European Convention and urges Parties to ratify relevant European Conventions. It points to the use of video-recorders and closed circuit television in identifying suspect. It is also recommended that in the case of successful prosecution of offenders, measures are taken which have the effect of preventing individual offenders from attending sports events or particular sports events for a given time, or forbidding access to grounds where such events take place.
Article 6 of the European Convention lists additional measures to be taken, viz.:
close co-operation with sports organisation, clubs and stadia owners regarding alterations to stadia;
promotion of a system laying down requirements for the selection of stadia used for matches likely to attract large or unruly crowds;
encouraging national sports organisations to review regulations their regulations continuously in order to control factors that may lead to outbreaks of violence.

In addition to the specific Recommendations mentioned earlier, two recommendations deal with general measures.
Recommendation 2/89 is a comprehensive report on measures to counter hooliganism. It includes lessons learnt from Euro 88 in Germany. Co-operation and co-operation are considered vital for success.
Recommendation 1/93 on measures to be taken by the organisers of football matches and public authorities provides a standard checklist of measures to be taken. The checklist is meant to serve as the basis for an agreement between the organisers of a football match and the public authorities of the country where the football match is to be organised about obligations and responsibilities of the organisers of football matches on a European level (particularly within the framework of UEFA and FIFA competitions).
All measures mentioned above deal directly with the organisation of sport events. In addition to these measures, the European Convention calls for the parties to take appropriate social and educational measures to prevent violence in and associated with sport (Article 3.5), in particular by: promoting the sport ideal; giving support to the notion of fair play; encouraging increased participation in sport.

Every year, Parties submit national reports on incidents, new legislative and administrative measures, new regulatory measures adopted by sports organisations and new co-ordination measures, new preventive and social measures, international co-operation.
Over the years, the Standing Committee has organised several meetings and seminars (e.g. 1997 Sprint seminar in Rome on "Sport and Law", 1998 Sprint seminar in Berlin on "Combating Hooliganism"). The participants to the Berlin seminar agreed that it is important that fans be consulted and involved in decisions that concern them. Relations with supporters should be based on a long-term strategy and on lasting personal contacts. The participants also stressed the importance of educational, social and cultural measures and strategies in preventing violence.

Initiatives of the European Union

Over the years, the European parliament has adopted several resolutions related to hooliganism, calling for a balance between repression and fundamental societal values. The European parliament on several occasions recommended co-operation for the struggle against violence and necessary measures for the struggle against vandalism, xenophobia and violence in sport.
Several initiatives for joint policy and approach in the area of combating football hooliganism within the Union have been taken by the working group on police co-operation. The Council of Ministers has adopted a number of recommendations:
recommendation of 30/11/93 about the responsibilities of organisers of sports events;
recommendation of 1/12/94 about direct exchange of information related to international sports manifestations;
recommendation of 22/4/96 on guidelines to prevent and control incidents at football matches (with standard format to facilitate exchange of police information);
resolution of 9/6/1997 on prevention and control of football hooliganism by exchanging experiences, by stadia bans and by media policy

The most recent initiative is a "Handbook for international police co-operation and measures to prevent and control violence and disorder around football matches" (Enfopol 37, 8358/99). The following subjects are covered in the handbook:
preparation by police
organisation of police co-operation
information by police
co-operation between police and stewards
checklist media policy en communication strategy


Over the years a number of initiatives have been taken (based in large part on the European Convention) that greatly contributed to improved international co-ordination, co-operation and exchange of information. In spite of that, large differences exist between different countries as to the actual implementation of arrangements. E.g. only three countries have a national "football intelligence" centre on a permanent basis. The Handbook developed by the European Union might prove useful to countries of the Council of Europe as well.
The initiatives taken were almost exclusively concerned with the safe management of matches and tournaments. Repressive and secondarily preventive measures were aimed at the way in which the hooligan problem manifested itself and were heavily influenced by striking incidents, such as the Heysel-tragedy. The European Convention was written in response to the hooliganism of the eighties. Without changes, it is doubtful whether it will be able to deal with the developments in hooliganism noted in this report.
Although it is recognised that the roots of hooliganism lie outside the field of sport, in a European context few initiatives were taken to influence the behaviour of fans in between matches. Educational, social and cultural measures and strategies to prevent violence deserve more attention.
© Otto Adang, 1999
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations