Walk Together (#231)

England is known for having some of the world’s most passionate football fans. While this is a point of pride, it can be taken to an extreme when fans resort to violence and vandalism—often broadly called hooliganism. English hooligans have earned a particular reputation over the past century for occasionally harmful behavior.

This reputation became a central story leading up to the 2004 UEFA European Football Tournament in Portugal. There was significant concern about violence, especially after hundreds of English fans were arrested for disorderly behavior at both the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 UEFA Tournament. UEFA even warned the English Football Association that their team would be removed from the competition if violence occurred again.

Despite this anxiety, there was little violence at the 2004 tournament. While this was partly due to an initiative to keep known instigators from traveling to Portugal in the first place, event organizers also partnered with the police to test a new, psychology-driven peace-keeping strategy.

Police worked with organizers to select officers distinguished for their interpersonal skills, rather than their strength. The police also kept a low-profile, utilizing mostly plain-clothed officers in areas where large crowds of fans gathered—riot police were available, but not made as visible.