Police unveil hooligan-busting Euro 2020 hub

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Fewer hooligans will travel to Euro 2020 because of Covid restrictions but they will be more difficult to trace, European police warned Thursday as they unveiled a special operations hub in the Netherlands.

Hooligan-busting Euro 2020 hub

Officers from each of the 24 nations playing in the tournament across 11 countries will spend the next month monitoring threats from the control room at the EU’s police agency Europol in The Hague.

Beneath giant screens, with desks arranged according to their countries’ Euro 2020 groups, the 40 or so officers will be able to quickly share information and prevent trouble.

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“Until now it’s still quiet at the front, but we are alert,” Max Daniel, the senior Dutch police officer in charge of the operations centre, told a press conference at Europol.

“Because of the Covid rules we expect not so high a number of supporters at all, so I think the number of hooligans will be limited as well,” he added.

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“But still it’s very difficult for us because of the Covid rules. Most of them will travel by car, and there will be a lot more movements… because of the fact that we play in several countries.”

‘Unprecedented complexity’

Europol chief Catherine De Bolle said this year’s tournament was a security challenge of “unprecedented complexity”.

“The operations centre is prepared to react to any criminal threat which may endanger the smooth flow of the competition,” De Bolle added.

Europol said it would also be monitoring other types of threats and crime during the tournament, including cyber crime and match-fixing, and even fake Covid travel certificates.

Enforcing local Covid regulations will remain the responsibility of host nations.

But if there was “special information about groups that are willing to organise parties around stadiums we will give them information”, said Dutch policeman Daniel.

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Inside the control room, set up in a large auditorium inside Europol’s granite-grey HQ, officers from each country sit at desks monitoring and collating information.

A total of 40 officers will work in a shift system covering all the match days and also being on call during the night.

“Of course the focus is on the Covid-19 issues. but we mustn’t forget the fact that we still have to face the hooliganism,” said Romanian police officer Adrian Dinca, one of the coordinators.

“It has not disappeared, it is still there.”

‘Brexit has no impact’

Britain is one of the countries running the centre along with Romania and the Netherlands, despite its departure from the EU and therefore from Europol.

The three UK home nations of England, Scotland and Wales are all taking part in the tournament, and the final is at London’s Wembley stadium on July 11.

“Brexit has no impact whatsoever on the really important business that we do with other countries,” said Adrian Roberts of the UK Football Policing Unit.

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“If we were to lose that overnight because of the perception that Brexit means we can no longer share intelligence and information, we’d be taking a lot of steps backwards.”

To prevent trouble, the hub will work with police “spotters” in each of the countries who gain intelligence on hooligans, officials said.

If trouble kicks off, officers will set up a “crisis room” with the countries involved.

But which team do the police officers think will win the tournament? 

“We don’t have intelligence on that yet!” said Dinca.

© Agence France-Presse

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