FILE -English soccer fans spray beer before the group D...

FILE -English soccer fans spray beer before the group D match between England and France during the Euro 2012 soccer championship in Donetsk, Ukraine, Ukraine, Monday, June 11, 2012. The message to English soccer fans at Euro 2024 is clear: behave or else. A range of measures are being taken to avoid or clamp down on trouble from England supporters at the monthlong tournament in Germany, which kicks off on Friday. Credit: AP/Sergei Chuzavkov

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Because England vs. Serbia has been tagged high risk by police, it's the only Euro 2024 game where fans in the Gelsenkirchen stadium are restricted to low alcohol beer.

Yet, elsewhere in the city on Sunday, organizers are preparing for a festival atmosphere despite police concerns about potential crowd violence.

“We've plenty of alcohol,” Wilhelm Weßels, head of the city of Gelsenkirchen Euros office, said on Friday. To be precise, he said 80,000 liters of beer.

If it sounds like the messages to fans in Gelsenkirchen are mixed, it is because they are.

Being a host city for the European Championship is a big deal to Gelsenkirchen, and the fan zone and bunting set up in its center is ready to welcome an expected 20,000 England fans and around 10,000 from Serbia.

But the potential for problems has been highlighted as the game has edged ever closer.

“Between the police forces of the federal states, the national associations and UEFA as the organizer, we came to the conclusion that this match would be classified a so-called high-risk match,” said Peter Both, chief police director of Gelsenkirchen.

For historical reasons, that tag doesn't surprise. English fans have a notorious reputation going back decades, while Serbian supporters caused a Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy to be called off when they threw flares and fireworks.

The effectiveness of the low alcohol measure is questionable, given how readily available full-strength beer will be outside of the stadium ahead of kickoff at 9 p.m. local time.

“If someone arrives so drunk that they are barely able to hold their ticket, I would expect them to be denied entry to the stadium,” Both said.

“I firmly believe that there is a connection between excessive alcohol consumption and the willingness to become violent. If that no longer exists, we will have to rewrite all the biology books on the subject.”

While alcohol has felt like the main topic of debate ahead of the match, Weßels was keen to point to other options available for fans, including 32,000 sausages and 7.5 tons of chips.


James Robson is at

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