German authorities halve strength of alcohol at England’s ‘high risk’ opening Euro 2024 game with Serbia

England and Serbia supporters will be restricted to low-alcohol beer as police prepare a major security operation in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday

Lawrence Ostlere
Wednesday 12 June 2024 09:47
An England fan revels in a water fountain during Euro 2016
An England fan revels in a water fountain during Euro 2016 (Getty Images)

England fans will only be allowed to buy low-alcohol beer at their opening Euro 2024 match with Serbia on Sunday after the fixture was identified as “high risk” by German authorities.

The full-strength Bitburger Premium lager (4.8%) usually served inside the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen has been replaced by a 2.5% alternative in a bid to keep a lid on potential disturbances at the game, and fans will only be allowed to buy two pints at a time.

More than 1,000 police officers will be deployed in a major security operation amid fears of trouble between supporters.

Gelsenkirchen police said this week: “It is just the England game which will have the low-strength beer … Fans are not allowed to drink alcohol in the city’s main square, Heinrich-Konig-Platz. An England fan with a can or bottle of beer in the square will be asked to put it away, or it will be taken away. They will not immediately be arrested.

“The square will be a fan zone for other games in the city, but not for England. Fans can however drink alcohol in the city’s bars and in a fan zone for England fans at the racecourse.”

The decision comes as local authorities prepared for around 500 Serbian hooligans to travel to the game. Serbian football faces challenges around the rise of far-right nationalist groups, and the national stadium was partially closed in November after racist behaviour by fans in a match with Montenegro. There were also reports of Manchester City supporters being attacked in Belgrade before a Champions League fixture last year.

At least 40,000 England fans are expected to travel to Gelsenkirchen, some of whom will not have tickets but will be there to soak in the atmosphere.

England have a troubled history at major tournaments, underlined by the chaotic scenes at Wembley during the Euro 2020 final. And although there were no significant problems at the past two World Cups in Russia and Qatar, there is an acknowledgement that a more local event like this Euros in Germany will see fans travel in far greater numbers.

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