Friday, February 27, 2004
Controlling Drunken Soccer Spectators
The Euro 2004 soccer championship finals will soon be upon us, with Portugal the site for this year's tournament. One problem with these tournaments in the past has been that they attract a critical mass of soccer enthusiasts who are willing (and able, alas) to drink heavily and brawl with supporters of other national teams (or brawl among themselves, for that matter). Four years ago, host nations Belgium and the Netherlands instituted a zero tolerance policy towards fan violence, such that folks involved in any fisticuffs were quickly herded up and shipped home, prevented from seeing any more of the soccer action in person. (Charges were later dropped against most alleged offenders, but it was the arrest, temporary confinement, and exile that was the real punishment, anyway.) There was still a bit of violence (well, even some rioting), but the strict policy was widely viewed as a success.
Preparations are now underway to provide security for Euro 2004. England supporters have traditionally provided more than their share of hooligans, and the UK has greatly expanded the number of citizens (to 2000, with hundreds more to be added) who are covered by travel bans (precluding foreign travel) during the tourney. A new approach to be used by the Portuguese police, however, will be to require alcohol and drug tests of fans who appear to be visibly intoxicated. Though details are sketchy, it sounds as if the screening will take place prior to entering stadium grounds. In other words, entering a stadium while intoxicated will be an offense that precludes admission, even if you are a pleasant, quiet drunk. It is unclear if those who become intoxicated (again, without otherwise misbehaving) during the match will be sent off. It is also unclear how the drug tests will be carried out.