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Football’s new breed of hooligans heading to the Euros: Why cocaine-addled teenagers looking to show off on Instagram have German police on alert


It is unfashionable to speak well of the football police. Some fans will say that to do so is to be a cheerleader for a presence that interferes with the simple enjoyment of the game.

As if Home Office data showing football disorder at a nine-year high was irrelevant. As if random, barely reported acts of brutality had no meaning. The 60-year-old attacked before the first of the Norwich/Leeds play-off games. An ambulance worker was assaulted at the same facility.

It would have been good to have been there with me on a warm spring day in Crewe a few weeks ago when, with Wrexham’s fairly local neighbors in town, Cheshire Police allowed me to be with them to see what policing was like. a «high risk» game.

Such was the threat of serious unrest, the first of the 200 – yes, really, 200 – officers working the League Two game that day gathered in the sunshine around the back of the former college at 9am. Their conversations, taking place over the din of caged police dogs, were interrupted as they packed into the lecture hall for an operational briefing.

It was the tactical strategy, even more than the scale of the operation, that struck me. The speeches were engaging and, although the police wouldn’t put it that way, reassuring. «Be alert but engage,» «Bronze Commander» Inspector James Wilson told colleagues at his briefing.

A man has been charged and a second man bailed after a 60-year-old attacked before the Norwich/Leeds play-off first leg in May

An increased police presence at football grounds across the country is now a must and rioting at football matches is on the rise

An increased police presence at football grounds across the country is now a must, with rioting at football matches on the rise

Football violence defies logic. A group of Wrexham fans beat one of their own senseless a few years ago because he couldn’t convince them he wasn’t a fan visiting Torquay. Some twisted and pretentious sense of rivalry saw Wrexham and Oldham fans also lashing out at each other not too long ago.

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Hence the intensity between Wilson and his officers, stationed in the Crewe Alex Stadium control box, the nerve center of the task of keeping the opposition apart. But at the end, there were police «observers» – a kind of front-line diplomatic emissary whose role it is to befriend and understand the fans, identify those who threaten the peace and repel them.

As they worked, the Cheshire officers described to me a relatively new breed of teenage football fans who have contributed to a large increase in disorder since the pandemic.

The prevalence of cocaine certainly contributes to this. There’s a reason the new film about modern football hooliganism is called ‘Marching Powder’. «But it has an attention-grabbing dimension,» says one police officer who spends a lot of time at events that pose a risk to public order.

“Some of these kids want to post pictures of themselves fighting on Instagram. You’re talking about 15- to 18-year-olds who have never fought, danced around, don’t know what to do when they start a fight and get punched. They are the ones who need the police when this happens.’

It was striking how similar Germany’s approach to policing appeared when the head of Britain’s football policing unit, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, invited two of the country’s officers to speak at a Euro security media briefing at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. weeks back.

The mere presence of the Germans in the room revealed how far the policing of the event has come from Euro 2016, where hardline French officers simply fired water cannons and tear gas at outraged supporters.

The Germans are bending over backwards to help any fans – drunk, cocaine or otherwise – avoid arrest and welcome the presence of British ‘spotters’ at the tournament with open arms.

England fans throw up barriers outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the Euro 2020 final

England fans throw up barriers outside Wembley Stadium ahead of the Euro 2020 final

German police took part in an operational exercise at the MHP Arena in Stuttgart earlier this month

German police took part in an operational exercise at the MHP Arena in Stuttgart earlier this month

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But this tolerance has its limits. When I asked one of the German officers about the tendency of the intellectually challenged English minority to constantly sing about «Ten German bombers» and the «RAF from England» that had «shot them down», he spoke of the need to «respect our countries» and cited public order penalties , which may involve marching to the cashier to pay the fine. The countries of southern Germany are generally considered to be the most conservative and least tolerant.

Performing the Nazi salute is punishable by prison in Germany, as is using the swastika, another German officer explained to me later. «You have to understand it’s because of our history,» he said. Burning an Israeli flag in Germany can also result in imprisonment.

The job of those overseeing England’s matches at the Euros is not being made any easier by the court’s erratic decision to cut short the four-year ban imposed on serial hooligan and troublemaker Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the England Defense League, freeing him from traveling to the tournament and inciting violence.

But in Germany, as in Crewe, dealing with teenage attention seekers from Britain appears to be more of a challenge. Britain’s top operational police officer on the ground at the Euros, Chief Superintendent Colette Rose, says what happens next month has a lot to do with good parenting. «We would encourage parents to talk to these kids about behavior when traveling abroad,» he says, «we will be there to help England supporters enjoy themselves and not get into trouble.»

Diplomacy and engagement helped that day in Crewe. There was no serious malfunction. But the stakes, like the sun, will be higher in the coming weeks. The fans who found themselves in prison in Germany can’t say they weren’t warned. They have themselves to blame.

Senior Superintendent Colette Rose says what happens next month has a lot to do with good parenting

Senior Superintendent Colette Rose says what happens next month has a lot to do with good parenting

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MontyLitFest welcomes you!

Montgomery, in mid-Wales, is the most idyllic of small towns, with a brewery, a cider house and – if you’re still standing – the wonderful literary festival MontyLitFest, where I have the honor of speaking on Sunday about a book called ‘Tinseltown’ that I wrote about my club and town – Wrexham.

You might assume the club’s rise under Hollywood ownership is fairy-tale, pure and simple, but it has become more complicated. It’s not just a bed of roses. Join us for discussion and cider in this beautiful setting this weekend. Montylitfest.com.

A great antidote to the bleak isolationism of post-Brexit Britain

Neither Jude Bellingham nor Jadon Sancho set the stage at Wembley on fire, but seeing England’s young players integral to both sides in the Champions League final seemed such a great antidote to Britain’s bleak post-Brexit isolationism.

We didn’t need our clubs in the final to secure a place on the cosmopolitan European stage.

England internationals Jude Bellingham (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) featured in the Champions League final for European teams last week.

England internationals Jude Bellingham (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) featured in the Champions League final for European teams last week.

The Dutch national team has a tradition of training before major tournaments in the jersey of their first football club

The Dutch national team has a tradition of training before major tournaments in the jersey of their first football club

The Three Lions could notice the classy touch of the Oranje

The Dutch national team is world class when it comes to knowing where the heart of its football resides. It has become a tradition that when the national team meets for a tournament, they gather for a photo shoot wearing the jersey of their first club. They did so last week.

If the FA were to do the same, it would be a reminder of humble clubs such as Carlisle United, Exeter City, Barnsley, Hereford United and QPR who have supplied the talent on which an English summer could rest. Players and clubs below!

(Carlisle – Jarrod Branthwaite; Exeter – Ollie Watkins; Barnsley – John Stones; Hereford – Jarrod Bowen; QPR – Eberechi Eze).



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