RAND Europe is studying violence and riots at international sports events

Anti-social behaviour at football matches is a well-known problem everywhere. The police, football associations and governments have used many interventions and strategies aimed at anticipating and responding to such problematic behaviour. Regarding two international sports events in Qatar: the 2019 World Athletics Championship and the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the University of Qatar commissioned a report from RAND Europe about violence and disturbances at international sports events.

The objective of the study was to understand the nature and factors associated with antisocial and violent behaviour at football matches and examine the effectiveness of existing approaches to anticipate and respond to such behaviour.

Football supportersThe influence of alcohol, sports rivalries, spatial factors, socio-political factors, psychological factors, situational factors and reactions to the game are factors that lead to violent and antisocial behaviour. However, these factors usually interact and there is never only one factor involved.

Police approaches aimed at establishing dialogue and positive lines of communication with fans seem to be promising. Some studies found that policing methods that tried to maintain a rapport of mutual respect between fans and the police were effective. Nevertheless, the tests presented in the case study of violence at the EUFA European Championship in 2016 suggest that police forces also need a series of tactics, require sufficient resources and need to be prepared to increase the response to the situation if so requires.

The Crowd Behaviour Model (CBM) can capture complex cultural, individual and environmental differences in the way people move in an area to be able to predict how crowds behave. CBM is more effective when it is collaborative and interactive among experts that define a model, the customer and the pertinent parts, such as stadium security officials.

A case study of the role of volunteers at major sports events found that volunteers play an important role in maintaining public security by supporting the spectator’s positive behaviour during important sports events.

Although there is no one factor alone that causes crowd disturbances in the world of football, evidence suggests that some interventions may be effective to anticipate and respond to violent and antisocial behaviour. This means that host nations should be able to take practical measures to minimise the possibility of disturbances during a tournament. Investigations suggest that disruptive behaviour increases with out-of-proportion or inconsistent security and surveillance tactics, queues and delays when at the entrance to stadiums, hinder the movement of fans.

There is a range of promising practices that event organisers can consider. Regarding surveillance tactics, experience shows that low-intensity policing is associated with more peaceful crowds. These approaches are based on the creation of relations with fans and the sharing of intelligence and cooperation between police agencies from different countries, both before and during the event.

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