What factors contributed to the different levels of disorder witnessed in Marseille and Lille during the Euros 2016 UEFA European Championship?

by Lucy Strang

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Research Question

  1. What factors may have contributed to the different outcomes in crowd behaviour and public safety witnessed in Marseille and Lille during the 2016 UEFA European Championship?

This case study examines a particularly high-profile instance of football-related violence and disorder that broke out in the southern French city of Marseille during the 2016 UEFA European Championship. Three days of clashes between supporters of the national teams of Russia and England, local youths and the police in the lead up to a match between the Russia and England teams resulted in dozens of serious injuries to fans and bystanders. Only four days after these events, matches involving Russia, England and Wales were due to take place in the Lille area, and there was concern that similar, or even more serious disorder would occur. Several smaller clashes did occur between the rival groups in Lille, alongside antisocial behaviour such as chanting and public intoxication. Overall, however, the scale of disorder fell short of what had been feared. This case study explores the factors that may have contributed to the different outcomes in crowd behaviour and public safety witnessed in Marseille and Lille.

Key Findings

  • Serious violence broke out in the French city of Marseille between supporters of the national teams of Russia and England, local youths and the police during the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
  • Matches involving the national teams of Russia, England and Wales were due to take place in the Lille area only days thereafter, and there was concern from police forces, fans and other stakeholders that similar, or even more serious disorder would occur. However, while there were several smaller clashes and instances of antisocial behaviour, large-scale problems were avoided.
  • Evidence gathered in this case study points to a number of reasons why events played out differently in the two cities. In particular, the high-intensity, reactive policing tactics deployed in Marseille may have caused the situation to escalate. A generally lower-intensity policing approach aimed at facilitating positive behaviours was reportedly adopted in Lille.
  • Different approaches to the sharing and utilisation of intelligence between foreign police forces about travelling supporters, as well as the role of foreign police officers in local security operations, may also have contributed to the contrasting outcomes.
  • Other contributory factors include issues with UEFA's security inside the Marseille stadium; the history of conflict between England fans and local youths in Marseille; and different regulatory frameworks regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol during the tournament.

Recommendations

  • Establishing mutually respectful relations between police and fans, and facilitating positive behaviours through dialogue may afford police officers a perception of legitimacy and produce more cooperation from the crowd. However, authorities must also be prepared to utilise a variety of tactics, including scaling up their response to violence and disorder, to maintain public safety.
  • The sharing and utilisation of intelligence from foreign police forces about their supporters may assist authorities in identifying troublemakers and being prepared for any disorder.
  • Effective security operations inside match stadiums are important. These include proper searches of ticket holders for prohibited items; adequate segregation of fans inside stadiums; and well-trained and supported stewards.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by Qatar University and conducted by RAND Europe.

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