From hooliganism to 'hot red' terror threats - how Germany is trying to make Euro 2024 safe? (2024)

Germany is readying itself for a huge security operation as football fans prepare to visit for Euro 2024.

From the hosts’ opener against Scotland tomorrow night (Friday) in Munich to the final on July 14 in Berlin, 2.7million fans will attend games across 10 stadiums, together with a further 12million in fan zones, as well as the 24 teams based across various locations.


With organisers responsible for their safety, Germany has beefed up its security plans; a complex assignment given geopolitical tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and Israel and Palestine, along with the threat of cyberattacks, hooliganism and terrorism.

It all means Germany is on high alert. But how do they plan to combat these multiple threats in the coming month?

How serious is the security threat?

Following the March 22 terror attack by Islamic State terrorists on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall, which left 145 people dead, Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser warned how that had raised “dangers to a new level”. As a direct response, police will now carry out temporary border controls at all German borders during the tournament.

Faeser also said the Ukraine team will be granted extra security during their time in Germany.

Olivier Guitta, a geopolitical risk, terrorism andsecurityexpert, told The Athletic the main threat at the tournament was from jihadist terrorists.

“More than anything, we have seen in the past that the jihadists always try to hit a target where they haven’t been successful in the past, so we know at the top of their list are football stadiums,” he said.

“They have tried the Stade de France during the 2015 attacks in Paris, the Euros in France and they have, time and again in the last three months, specifically threatened Champions League matches. So this is right at the top of their agenda.

From hooliganism to 'hot red' terror threats - how Germany is trying to make Euro 2024 safe? (1)

Police at Belgium’s training base in Ludwigsburg (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

“There are the Euros, but also the Olympics. We think they are going to try to target one of the two. The threat of a terror attack at the Euros is at its highest ever.

“In the past six months, most of the plots in Europe were foiled thanks to American intelligence. There will be a concerted effort between the European secret service and the American secret service. Since the beginning of the year, European intelligence services have been at the highest, in terms of alert — hot red.


“But combined with this, let’s add the geopolitical factor. There’s Russia, but also Iran. If they can undermine Europeans, they will go for it.”

Against that backdrop, last month French security services arrested an 18-year-old suspected of plotting an “Islamist-inspired” attack on a football game at Saint-Etienne’s stadium during the Olympics.

What are the German authorities doing about it?

To oversee events and protect the public, Germany has brought together 600 experts across Europe who will work from a new International Police Cooperation Centre (IPCC) at Neuss in the west of the country.

At the hub, national police forces will work in shifts alongside officials from Germany, Europol and UEFA as part of a joined-up security operation to spot potential troublemakers and exchange information. The idea is that each country can quickly root out notorious supporters — for example, those with a national banning order, and then flag it up to the IPCC squad.

The IPCC room is fitted with 129 computers and a 40-square-metre screen.

From hooliganism to 'hot red' terror threats - how Germany is trying to make Euro 2024 safe? (2)

The International Police Cooperation Centre in Neuss (Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Mick Johnson, director of the UK Football Policing Unit, explained how officers will work in three-day stints beginning one day before games, match day itself and the day after.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “We have a team of plain-clothed operational football officers on the ground watching fans who will report to our team based in the IPCC. If they spot anyone causing trouble, or identify anyone who’s been banned from matches, they will tell the IPCC team who’ll relay it to the Germans who will step in to take action.”

At the matches themselves, between 800 and 1,300 police will be stationed around stadiums for each game, with separate checks for bags and tickets. They will be aware that at this season’s Champions League final on June 1 at Wembley Stadium, London’s Metropolitan Police made 56 arrests, including five for pitch invasions, even after £5m was invested in tightening up security.


The German army will also monitor the skies around matches for drone attacks and feed any information back to the IPCC central command.

Fan zones in the host cities, which thousands of supporters can enter free of charge for every match, will present another security challenge, with experts warning such “soft targets” are more vulnerable as there are fewer checks and fewer police officials.

Guitta said: “It has always been the case that if terrorists cannot get through the security at a stadium, they always have a secondary target to go after. Fan zones are extremely soft targets.”

How to follow Euro 2024 andCopa AmericaonThe Athletic…

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What about hooliganism?

This is another severe threat the German police are preparing for.

Last month, hundreds of police took part in a major training exercise at a train station in the village of Stutzerbach, in Ilmenau, central Germany. This involved around 200 trainee police officers playing the role of violent fans coming off the train, who were met by local state police, who then called in hundreds of federal police to assist as the situation escalated.

“Zero violence is our main target and a goal,” police spokesman Karsten Taschner said. “We want to welcome everyone to join the tournament. We are open-minded. But we are also prepared for that small number of people who come with a violent attitude.”

Several countries participating at the tournament have a recent history of fan violence, including Poland, Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands and Romania.

From hooliganism to 'hot red' terror threats - how Germany is trying to make Euro 2024 safe? (3)

Hungary fans clash with police at Wembley in 2021 (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Serbia, England’s opponents in their first game on June 16, also have a reputation for violence, with football in the country linked to organised crime and corruption.

For that match in Gelsenkirchen, which kicks off at 9pm local time, fans will be served lower-alcohol beer in the stadium and will not be able to drink in the stands. “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.”

From the UK, it’s estimated around 300,000 fans will travel to Germany, with the country far more accessible to English fans than the previous two major overseas tournaments in Qatar and Russia.

German officials have warned there will be a “zero tolerance” approach to what UK football policing head Mark Roberts described as “grossly offensive behaviour.” A Nazi salute is a criminal offence in Germany while any anti-German war songs — which have been regularly sung at England matches for many years — are deemed wholly unacceptable.

Anyone caught doing so can expect German police to march them to a cashpoint and pay an on-the-spot fine.

However, Roberts pointed out that the behaviour of England fans at tournaments has “generally been excellent” with the make-up of a typical travelling supporter “more Inbetweeners than Green Street” — a reference to the Hollywood film about hooliganism.

Roberts added: “Looking at the culture of Germany, it’s not entirely dissimilar to ours. Police are used to people having a drink, used to the night-time economy.”

Geoff Pearson, an academic expert on football disorder at the University of Manchester, agreed. “If I were to pick a country to host a tournament like this and it wasn’t the UK, then it would be Germany,” he told The Athletic.

“The level of policing is very good, they are keen on officers acting in a communication capacity, it’s a country that welcomes fans, even those without tickets. In terms of stadium security, German stadiums have a very good reputation.”

Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, added: “There’s clear commitment from the hosts to make the tournament as fan-friendly as possible. There’s a potential to have a tournament that sets new standards in that regard. It’s definitely a different approach to France 2016. There are challenges: in terms of geopolitical risk, it’s probably the most complicated tournament we’ve seen so far.”


There are currently more than 1,600 fans across England (and Wales) with football banning orders in place. They are being told to hand in their passports from June 4 until the tournament ends on July 14. However, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had his overturned just before the tournament starts.

“We are just going to have to live with that,” Roberts said. “But we are not naive.”

What about online abuse?

Roberts also explained how it would now be easier to prosecute offenders who abuse footballers online as social media companies have become more cooperative.

This happened after the Euro 2020 final when Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all suffered racist abuse online after missing penalties in the shootout defeat to Italy.

Roberts said: “If people think they can hide behind their keyboards and racially or in other ways engage in hate crimes online, then we will pursue it and we will prosecute.”

Elsewhere, fans have been warned against buying unauthorised tickets advertised by third parties on social media, marketplaces and secondary ticketing platforms.

Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity advisor, said the desire to watch a big tournament match meant fans were susceptible to being caught out.

“Scammers use this to their advantage, offering fake tickets or directing them to malicious websites that steal personal information,” he explained. “Scammers can create phishing websites using similar URLs as official distributors in an attempt to secure more sales or to steal personal information.

“With that in mind, any website that resells tickets should be approached with extreme caution. These sites could be used to steal not only your money but also payment card information or other personal information, which could be later sold to the highest bidder on the dark web.”

Last week, UEFA also warned that any supporters purchasing tickets for the Euros via third parties may be refused entry or ejected from the stadium.

(Top photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

From hooliganism to 'hot red' terror threats - how Germany is trying to make Euro 2024 safe? (2024)
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