In his latest blog for Infologue.com, David Ward of Ward Security discusses the football violence in France. David writes: “Unfortunately, while events on the pitches of France dominate media headlines, so do events off the pitch as the spectre of football violence once again rears its head at the Euro 2016 tournament to remind us that it’s never really gone away; it has simply been waiting for the right environment in which it can exercise its muscles. Sadly, it would appear the French police have provided that environment.
“Here in the UK we have very successfully managed to repress our historic problem with football violence. Whereas once we were a nation notorious for the blight of hooliganism that shadowed the Beautiful Game, we have managed to control it in recent years, and today episodes of serious large-scale violence at games are both rare and shocking, if and when they occur.
“In a way, Britain’s footballing community has naturally evolved to become less violent. The game is huge and attracts a much broader demographic than it did in the bad old days of the 70s and 80s when it was almost exclusively a male preserve. But still, the potential for violence when tens of thousands of rival fans meet remains and is never to be ignored.
“The key to repressing British football’s violent side has been adequate and balanced policing which has seen the police integrating and interacting with fans, instead of standing off as a threatening wall of shields as the French police appear to be doing. This approach by the French police has attracted widespread international condemnation, and clearly it is not working. It seems somewhat dated to British eyes and serves only to set up an air of intimidation that sets an unwelcome tone.
“Also, the role of intelligence and information sharing between police forces and communities cannot be overstated, and here in the UK intelligence gathering and information sharing is something we excel at. Of course France’s law enforcement structure is somewhat more complicated and convoluted, and there is a widespread belief that competition and rivalry between national and regional agencies weakens their effectiveness. This was one of the first criticisms levelled when Euro 2016 violence first erupted in Marseilles. The police were clearly unprepared and taken by surprise.
“This simply should not have happened. As a minimum the French police should have been informed about the known troublemakers entering the country. But with no evidence of joined up communication between agencies, and no obvious strategy in place, the French police will have to spend the entire tournament reacting to issues, instead of proactively deflecting them as they should.
“This brutal exposure of the weakness of the French security infrastructure is worrying. If they can appear to be in disarray right from the start of a known event such as a major football tournament, what message does this send out to more sinister forces such as international terrorists?
“We have to sympathise with France and worry for them. At the same time we should also be thankful and proud that here in the UK we are far more advanced in our thinking. We have well connected and well informed security agencies supported by a community of highly professional private security that works closely alongside them, and together they work with the communities they are there to protect.
“This communal and mutually rewarding approach to security is well illustrated through initiatives such as the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC) initiative that sees proactive partnership between law enforcement agencies, local and national government organisations and private sector businesses. Within such a culture it is hard to imagine that the same levels of violence would find such an easy foothold should the EURO tournament be held here in the UK”.
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