Early reflections on the approach to preventing and responding to violent and antisocial behavior at the 2018 World Cup in Russia

by Jirka Taylor, Lucy Strang, Emma Disley

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Research Questions

  1. What is the available evidence on violent and antisocial behaviour during the 2018 World Cup?
  2. What is the available evidence on the effectiveness of policing tactics deployed during the tournament?
  3. What is the available evidence on Intelligence-sharing and international cooperation between law enforcement agencies?
  4. What is the available evidence on the sale and consumption of alcohol?
  5. What is the available evidence on the facilitation of positive crowd behaviour through event organisation?

This case study examines the available evidence on violent and antisocial behaviour during the 2018 World Cup; effectiveness of policing tactics deployed during the tournament; intelligence-sharing and international cooperation between law enforcement agencies; sale and consumption of alcohol; and the facilitation of positive crowd behaviour through event organisation.

Key Findings

This case study offers early reflections on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, in particular on the factors that may have contributed to the relative absence of violence and antisocial behaviour reported at the event.

There are some limitations to the analysis, due to the recent nature of the event and the paucity of official data that are publicly available. Much of the information in this case study is drawn from interviews with international football policing practitioners, academic experts and representatives from fan associations.

The available information suggests that the 2018 World Cup was free of large-scale disorder and violent behaviour.

There are a number of potentially transferable lessons for the organisers of Qatar 2022:

  • Police cooperation and information sharing in advance of the event: In the view of experts, international police cooperation and measured policing tactics helped to ensure a largely trouble-free event.
  • Effective, measured and consistent security arrangements: Various organisational features were perceived by many fans to have contributed to a positive experience. These seemed to strike a balance between ensuring that necessary security arrangements were put in place and being perceived by fans as reasonable and proportionate. There was clarity and consistency with respect to applicable rules and regulations (relating to, for example, access to stadiums and behaviour), which minimised potential sources of fan frustration.
  • Providing services for fans: Services such as the provision of lockers, free public transportation and fan zones made the experience more enjoyable for supporters and facilitated positive behaviours.
  • Alcohol restrictions and non-criminal justice responses to intoxication: Organisers put in place some alcohol restrictions, while offering access to alcoholic drinks at stadiums and in designated areas. For fans who did become intoxicated, police and event personnel were able to use approaches such as recovery rooms instead of criminal justice responses, thus avoiding escalation where no other offence had been committed.

Recommendations

  • International police cooperation and information-sharing in advance of a tournament can facilitate a safe and enjoyable event, in particular by preventing known troublemakers from entering the host country. One possible option for Qatar is to source policing and security from other Arab countries.
  • Ensuring that effective, measured and consistent security arrangements are in place can help to keep fans safe, while ensuring that fans perceive these arrangements to be reasonable and proportionate. Minimising potential sources of frustration (such as long security screening queues to enter stadiums) amongst fans can facilitate a positive, cooperative dynamic between fans and event organisers and authorities. Similarly, providing services to fans such as lockers, free public transportation and fan zones made the experience more enjoyable for fans in Russia and encouraged positive behaviours.
  • Consideration needs to be given to alcohol-related policies that will be put in place during the event. In Russia, some alcohol restrictions were applied, while fans could purchase alcoholic drinks at stadiums and designated areas. The 2018 World Cup also demonstrated the value of 'informal', non-judicial responses to intoxication, such as recovery rooms, which prevented the escalation of such incidents.

Research conducted by

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

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