How Germany is ramping up security for ‘high-risk’ England game


Germany is ramping up security ahead of the start of Euro 2024, with England’s tie against Serbia seen by police as high risk.

The heightened security in Gelsenkirchen for England’s opening group game on Sunday means fans will be served lower alcohol beer in the stadium and will not be able to drink in the stands.

Policing will be more challenging as UEFA has asked for barriers to be removed and both sides will be seated close together, with two-thirds of tickets going to mixed areas.

“I think it’s a very high-risk game because of the history, because of the hooligans both sides have,” Chief Inspector Christof Burghardt told Sky News.

“Serbia has many hooligans. The English guys, with alcohol, they are sometimes very aggressive. So it’s a great job to do this, to prepare, so that hopefully nothing will happen.”

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England will play against Serbia on 16 June in their first game of the tournament

Ahead of the game, we joined officers at a league match in Gelsenkirchen which they used as a test run.

At the gates, fans were randomly checked for weapons and booze.

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Inside, police watched over the crowd at the potentially volatile clash, on alert for troublemakers.

Using CCTV to surveil the crowd, they spotted a group of masked ultras gathering in the stands and carefully monitored them.

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More than 300,000 British fans are expected to travel to Germany for the tournament, making it their highest attendance since Euro 2016 in France.

Germany is hoping to avoid a repeat of riots that year which marred the event and resulted in more than 1,500 arrests.

Fans who breach German public order laws have been warned they could be marched to a cashpoint to pay an on-the-spot fine.

British police have been sharing intelligence and will send the largest deployment of officers since 2016.

So-called police spotters will be on hand to help tackle antisocial behaviour and drink-fuelled violence, trying to talk to fans before things get out of hand.

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Many of the worst offenders have been stopped from travelling altogether.

“We currently have approximately 2,000 people on the banning order which basically means they can’t travel to tournaments and they can’t go into football stadiums,” explains Chief Superintendent Colette Rose, from UK Football Policing.

“Over 2,000 troublemakers away from football has made it a much safer place. When you play that out over the last eight to ten years the behaviour of football fans has been far, far better. We have no arrests in Qatar and we had very, very few arrests in the tournaments preceding that.”

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Policing the Euros is a complex challenge because it’s not just about keeping the 2.7 million fans safe in the 10 stadiums where the games are being played, there are also the 12 million in the fan zones to look after.

Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said everything is being done to ensure the event is safe.

“You can never 100% guarantee security but we are well-prepared and remain very vigilant,” she said.

Some 22,000 federal police officers will be on duty every day of the tournament.

Security is being stepped up at borders and train stations with the support of officers from other countries and 16,000 volunteers.

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In Thuringia, where England have their base camp, police have also been doing drills.

In one scenario, riot police practised stopping hooligans armed with flares and weapons on a train.

They admitted the tense global situation makes security more complex.

“In my opinion, the risk is definitely higher,” said Police Director Frank Haring. “Because of current political events in Ukraine, in Russia and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, terrorist groups could potentially use events like the European Championship for an attack.”

On Friday, police arrested a man at Cologne airport on suspicion of supporting Islamic State. He’s being held in custody.

In a separate incident, a police officer was killed and five other people were injured when an alleged Islamist extremist carried out a knife attack in Mannheim at the end of May.

Despite the risk, Germany says it is ready and can protect the millions of football fans coming here.

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