Euro 2016: France is supposed to be in a State of Emergency - but you wouldn't know it

Analysis: Failure to check tickets on public transport and a lack of visual deterrents could lead to even more chaos at Euro 2016

Mark Ogden
Tuesday 14 June 2016 12:46 BST
Queues after Ireland v Sweden

France has been under a State of Emergency since the terror attacks in Paris last November, but during the opening days of Euro 2016, there has been a worrying sense of the authorities doing little else but paying lip service to that grim reality.

While there is a clearly visible display of force throughout host cities – armed troops patrol airports and train stations – my experience of movement around the country and within Paris itself has so far been an alarming one.

Since arriving at Charles de Gaulle eight days ago, I have taken eight rail journeys and am yet to have my ticket checked, before, during or after my time on the train.

This has been the case from Charles de Gaulle into central Paris, to and from the Stade de France and during the four hour journey from Marseille to Paris – less than 24 hours after the shocking scenes involving English and Russian supporters in the southern city.

When calling for the State of Emergency to be extended in April, Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, insisted it was a necessity in order to ensure France 2016 would proceed smoothly and without incident.

Valls said: “Faced with an event this big ... which must take place in conditions of security and which at the same time should be a celebration.... we have to ensure security.

“The State of Emergency cannot be permanent, but for these big events ... we have decided to prolong it.”

France cannot operate in a state of lockdown and life must go on as routinely as possible, but with the violence in Marseille adding another element to the problems already faced by the French government, the absence of visible security checks within the transport network does not bode well.

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Following Monday’s fixture between the Republic of Ireland and Sweden at Stade de France, ticket barriers were disabled at stations close to the stadium in order to accelerate the movement of up to 80,000 supporters attempting to return to the centre of Paris.

That decision led to packed platforms of, thankfully, good natured fans waiting to board trains to Gare du Nord, but the lack of segregation would have been an issue had the fixture involved nations with more boisterous or troublesome followers.

But with all eyes now beginning to focus on northern France and the cities of Lille and Lens ahead of England’s Group B clash with Wales – and Russia’s encounter with Slovakia 24 hours earlier – the lax security on trains threatens to open up another area of concern.

With English, Welsh and Russian supporters potentially travelling together on trains to Lille and Lens, what will happen if violence erupts in busy carriages?

Republic of Ireland and Sweden fans queing at the Gare du Nord station after the 1-1 draw at the Stade de France
Republic of Ireland and Sweden fans queing at the Gare du Nord station after the 1-1 draw at the Stade de France (Mark Ogden/The Independent)

If France is under a State of Emergency, surely there will be a visible show of strength, with security present on trains and proper checks of tickets before any supporter can access the platform?

So far, there has been little evidence of any kind of strategy and it has been a surprising oversight by those charged with ensuring the tournament passes off peacefully.

Having troops patrolling stations is one thing, but more needs to be done beyond the platforms, otherwise France 2016 will be plagued by further problems.

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