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England sweeps hooliganism under the rug - expert

03 April 2014, 19:46

Paris - England has swept football hooliganism under the carpet, according to a football-related violence expert the day after Chelsea fans were involved in trouble in Paris.

Anastassia Tsoukola, an associate professor at the University of Paris XI, hit out at the idea that England had put its house in order after years spent dealing with hooligans.

"England have done an extraordinary marketing job in selling failure as an absolute success," she told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday.

A clamp-down by police, involving detailed intelligence operations, helped identify many of the regular trouble makers and banning orders kept them away from Premier League grounds but the problem has just been moved elsewhere, says Tsoukola.

"The problem has been moved to lower league stadiums and those supporters -- because they are supporters in the first place -- who have no access to Premier League grounds go to the pub," she explained.

"And there is an increase in pub scuffles, but statistically, it's not hooliganism. Then these lads cross the Channel and we find them in our countries."

On Wednesday, dozens of Chelsea fans scuffled with their Paris St Germain counterparts in central Paris not far from the Georges Pompidou centre before the Champions League quarter-final, first leg between the two clubs.

"It was up to the English police to do the job in England and identify and prevent them from leaving the country," Pierre Berthelet, an expert in European security, told Reuters.

The incident was over quickly as police quickly intervened and there were no arrests but according to witnesses, was very violent.

"It was really violent, and also very scary," local shopkeeper Damien, who did not want his last name to be disclosed, said on Wednesday.

"It was like in the movies, there was blood everywhere."

Fights between rival fans also occurred in central Paris last month ahead of PSG and Bayer Leverkusen's last 16 Champions League tie.

Tsoukola says the governments and UEFA's concern ends as soon as violence is moved away from stadiums.

"What European police forces and governments have been doing for decades is treating the symptoms of violence, not the causes," she said.

"In reality, these policies do not aim at maintaining order but rather they promote a reassuring image of police and of the government. It serves bureaucratic and political purposes."

Money is also one of the main issues, she said.

"The sponsors must be happy. It means that a game has a fixed duration because the gold mine comes from the TV rights. If you're a TV channel, you don't want a game's duration to depend on possible violent clashes."

"You don't want your advertisements to be associated with violence."

"European stadiums are sanctuaries but the reason behind it is not a concern for order. We have accepted the perverse effect of violence being moved elsewhere as collateral damage."

- Reuters


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