Breath tests for Euro 2004 fans

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The Independent Football

Random breath tests will be performed outside every match during this year's European Championship in Portugal, with fans who have consumed three pints or more at risk of being barred from entry.

The football associations of the 16 competing nations were yesterday awaiting detailed guidance from the tournament's organisers about the scope of the tests. Supporters will then be warned about the rules, which will be enforced at the discretion of the police. It is clear there will be zero tolerance of the kind of drunkenness that marred Euro 2000. There were several outbreaks of hooliganism involving drunken England fans, most notoriously in Charleroi in Belgium.

Superintendent Guilherme Guedes da Silva, who is the Euro 2004 coordinator for Portugal's police force, has said that anyone found to have more than 1.2 grams of alcohol per litre of blood will automatically be banned from attending the match they are heading for. The key question for most supporters will concern the randomness of the tests.

"It won't be for everyone, just fans who show signs of being intoxicated," Guedes da Silva said. It is unlikely that orderly, good-natured fans will be tested but the police will reserve the right to test anyone they think is over the limit. They have legal powers to do so under legislation passed in Portugal in 1998.

"At 1.2 grams, doctors consider a person's behaviour alters significantly," General Leonel Carvalho, the head of Euro 2004's security committee, said. "If they have violent tendencies, they become uninhibited."

Drivers in Portugal are fined if they are caught with between between 0.5 and 1.2 grams of alcohol per litre of blood. Above that they face criminal prosecution. The legal driving limit in the UK is 0.8 grams, which roughly equates to two pints of beer or four small glasses of wine.

Any measures encouraging English fans to drink sensibly at Euro 2004 are likely to be welcomed by the Football Association. When the FA has received confirmation about the scope of the tests, an awareness campaign is a possibility. Its message will be simple: get drunk and you risk missing the game.

Supporters who enjoy overindulging peacefully can take some solace from the example set by thousands of Celtic fans who travelled to Portugal last year to see their team play Boavista in the Uefa Cup semi-finals. They had been warned that anyone suspected of being drunk would be breath-tested. Their good behaviour - which later earned them Fifa's fans' award for 2003 - ensured no tests were actually done and there were no arrests.