Last updated : 30 June 2004 By Editor
From The Times:

The team's progress stalled in Portugal but England can boast one undoubted success story from the European Championship finals. After the threat of ejection from the tournament if there was a serious outbreak of hooliganism, Uefa yesterday awarded the nation's band of travelling supporters 9 out of 10.

Failing to hurl chairs through shop windows, beat rival supporters to a pulp and terrify innocent bystanders should be regarded as normal behaviour rather than a cause for celebration but, given England's notorious past, there is understandable relief among Uefa and the FA at the success in preventing a repeat of the riots at the 1998 World Cup finals and Euro 2000.

After the success of the Kick Out Racism campaign in England, Uefa was happy to acknowledge that the FA had done all it could to make sure that troublemakers did not travel to Portugal. England supporters travelled in greater numbers than those from any other country but, although there was some fighting in the Algarve, Uefa said that those incidents had nothing to do with the tournament.

"We had a fan park in Lisbon and there were 5,000 supporters there on the day of England against France," William Gaillard, Uefa's director of communications, said. "Two-thirds were from England and, in total, there were 6,000 pints of beer drunk. There was not one single incident. That tells you of the improvements.

"We must praise the efforts that have been made in the last few years by the English FA and the British authorities. There is no doubt that the banning orders and controls on travelling are bearing fruit. Congratulations.

"We may be seeing a sea-change in the attitude of the fans, a maturing process. Fans seem more aware of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Also we are seeing more families. I think there is a sociological change in the make-up of the English fans and they are becoming more like the Scandinavians and Dutch, who regard these tournaments as a family holiday. I think that reflects the Premier League, where we now see many more children at games. That tells you that parents regard football as a safe environment.

"When England played Portugal, there was a sprinkling of fans all over the stadium and there was an excellent atmosphere. Having two competing groups of fans with a thin line between them is not maybe helpful all the time. Maybe we can look at the concept differently."