French police haven’t learnt much over last 20 years

French police watch England fans in Lille, France. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
French police watch England fans in Lille, France. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
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The European Championships taking place in France are the only major football championships in the past 20 years, when England have qualified, which I have not attended.

Although, I had previously travelled to England games my first experience of attending a tournament was when we went to the World Cup in France in 1998.

John Halewood Dodd

John Halewood Dodd

As was the case in Euro 2016, England’s opening game was in the southern French city of Marseilles.

We drove on that occasion and the trip from Calais to Marseilles, with a distance of more than 660 miles, was a long and arduous one.

Our group of ten travelled in two vehicles, a new estate car which we had hired and an old, former British Rail, box type van which we had bought at auction and had converted into the most basic of campers by chucking some mattresses in the back.

We tried to balance things out so those in the van, which was far less luxurious than the hire car, had other perks. For example, they were in charge of the alcohol.

The first thing we did on arriving in France was to head to the hypermarket to cram the van to the rafters with cheap alcohol. So much so we had real concerns the axle would snap.

This made the van, nicknamed “The Winchester” after the drinking club from the popular television series Minder, extremely sluggish.

Those fortunate enough to be in the car arrived in Marseille a full day ahead of the van.

We spent that first day in bars, (only two), near the marina, sipping wine, eating good food, and lapping up the sunshine. It soon became obvious we were some of the first English to arrive.

The following day there were England fans everywhere and the mood had changed dramatically.

Although the majority were loud, but good natured, it was obvious the welcoming nature of the locals had dissipated.

Over the next couple of days there was sporadic violence similar to that seen recently.

It seems to me the French police have learned very little from the experiences of 20 years ago.