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France calls for Euro 2016 booze ban

The French government has called upon cities hosting Euro 2016 matches to ban alcohol near venues and fan zones after violence in Marseille at the weekend.

England’s opening game of the tournament was marred by fan violence in the run-up to and after the game against Russia on Saturday.

As reported by the BBC, France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called the events in Marseille totally unacceptable saying: “I have asked for all necessary measures to be taken to prohibit the sale, consumption and transport of alcoholic drinks in sensitive areas on match days and the day before, and on days when fan zones are open.”

Pubs, bars and cafés could also be banned from selling drinks in containers that could be used as missiles.

Some French cities have already declared they will impose alcohol bans with Lens, the site of England’s next game against Wales on Thursday, having declared there will be a 24-hour prohibition on alcohol with its sale only allowed in the fan zone areas.

It was suggested that England fans without a ticket for the game instead go to nearby Lille to enjoy a drink while watching the game on television but as Lille is the venue for Russia’s next group game and has itself just seen clashes between unpleasant elements of Germany and the Ukraine’s respective fan bases this advice has likely changed.

Host cities for the tournament include Bordeaux and Lyon, both widely celebrated for their wine and food culture and which local governments were no doubt be hoping to see visitors take full advantage of. Indeed, Bordeaux hosted a trouble-free fixture between Wales and Slovakia on Saturday and will see Austria and Hungary in town tomorrow (Tuesday 14th).

Major sporting competitions often bring a surge in sales for the off- and on-trades as thousands of fans crowd bars and restaurants for the few days they are in a city. The effect is not limited to the host nation either, the economy of Northern Ireland alone could see a boost of more than £8.5 million during the tournament according to one study, with £4m of that being generated by sales of beer and food.

The newly expanded Euro competition is set to last for a month and despite forecasts predicting an injection of €2.1 billion into the French economy, even a small ban on alcohol around stadiums on game days could see France lose out on millions.

The violence in Marseille recalled days of violence that have not been seen in English football for some time. There were clashes between the French riot police (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité – ‘CRS’) and supporters in the days before the match.

On Saturday itself trouble began in the stadium as some Russian fans stormed a section of seating occupied by English fans after the match. The fighting and confrontations then continued in the old port area of the city as English, Russian and local Marseille “ultras” clashed in running battles.

French police used tear gas as beer bottles, restaurant chairs and even tables were thrown back in ugly scenes reminiscent of a famous example of English football hooliganism that likewise took place in Marseille in 1998.

UEFA has warned both England and Russia that any further fan violence will see their teams ejected from the competition. The football governing body has also said it has begun disciplinary proceedings against Russia for crowd disturbances, racist behaviour and setting off fireworks in the stadium. Russia is under particular scrutiny due to its role as the host of the next World Cup in 2018.

UEFA has also criticised the security arrangements at the venue.

Despite the blame being laid on booze, Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters’ Federation told the BBC that alcohol was not behind the recent violence.

He told the broadcaster: “What we’ve seen there is groups of locals getting together and Russian hooligans getting together with the deliberate intent of attacking football fans, English fans primarily.

“The crucial thing is here, the Russians and the locals here who have been attacking football fans have been stone cold sober. They don’t drink, they are consciously focused, they train for six months, preparing for acts of hooliganism and violence like this. They’re not drunk, that’s not what’s caused the violence here.”

There were further injuries in Lille yesterday (Sunday 12 June) as ‘far-right’ elements of German and Ukrainian fans near the station fought before the game.

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