2006 World Cup as a benchmark for 2024: Fan expert warns police of escalation at EM

World Cup 2006 as a benchmark for 2024
Fan expert warns police about escalation at EM

The relationship between football fans and the police is tense. While a police union is calling for new repression for the European Football Championship in Germany this summer, a fan expert recommends something different: de-escalating communication to rebuild lost trust.

Michael Gabriel, head of the fan projects coordination office, sees the 2006 World Cup as a good blueprint for successful police action at the home European Championships this summer. “We need a police force at the tournament that is communicative, that welcomes people who come from all over Europe as guests. A police force that stays in the background and only appears when there are incidents “, said Gabriel on the sidelines of a meeting of the Bundestag’s sports committee. “It was a guarantee of success during the 2006 World Cup that communication was relied upon before and during the tournament.”

In the past few months there have been repeated clashes between fans and police in German stadiums. The fronts seem hardened. “More and more young people have a critical relationship with the police that is no longer based on trust. This is a warning sign for a democracy,” said Gabriel. The Fan Projects Coordination Office has existed since 1993. Its main task is to “accompany and coordinate the content of social-educational fan projects and to help set up further projects.”

Jochen Kopelke, the federal chairman of the police union (GdP), had previously called for an expansion of the monitoring of fans with facial recognition software and for dedicated judges to expedite criminal proceedings during the European Championships. He explained to the committee that the police had had good experiences in de-escalation with communication teams, loudspeaker announcements and separating the fan camps. However, he criticized the lack of willingness to communicate among many ultra groups.

Gabriel also sees a trend in which fan groups are increasingly withdrawing from dialogue out of disappointment and frustration. He also drew attention to another problem: the stadiums overall are safer than ever before. “On the other hand, it is also the case that there is a greater tendency towards violence in a minority of the fan scene,” he said.

The relationship between police and fans is tense. “The situation is deadlocked, a solution in a kind of fan-police dialogue is unfortunately unrealistic,” said fan representative Dario Minden from the “Our Curve” alliance in November 2023 after several escalations between police and fans. “Yes, there is a problem with violence at football games. A complex problem for which, unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. Unfortunately, as an active football fan, you often get the feeling that the police are not part of the solution here, but rather occurs as part of the problem.”

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