A 2,400-strong security force will be deployed in Lens this week as part of extra precautions taken against fan violence at Euro 2016, French authorities have confirmed.
The additional police and private security personnel will reinforce the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, the fan zone and the town centre for Thursday’s Group B match between England and Wales. They will also oversee improved segregation of fans within the stadium.
“We will have a strong police presence with more than 1,200 police officers present in Lens and you can add 1,200 more with the private security that will be mobilised that day,” regional administration head Fabienne Buccio said at a media conference in Arras.
“We have strengthened the safety systems on the inside of the stadium. They will be present in the stands ready in order to intervene promptly if there are clashes between supporters.
“There will be reinforced procedures outside the stadium. The town will be in lockdown by the police.”
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be in place. Bars in Lens can sell beer with an alcohol level lower than five per cent in plastic or paper cups, but supermarkets will be banned from selling any alcohol between 0600CET Wednesday and 0600CET Friday.
Service stations between Lille and Lens, and the route from the port town of Calais, will have similar restrictions, while authorities have been in contact with P&O Ferries and Eurostar officials in order to limit the sale of alcohol to fans crossing the English Channel.
Concerns had been raised about the number of supporters who will descend on a town that has a population of just 36,000 – less than that of the stadium capacity.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 England and Wales fans are expected to have travelled to Lens by the time the match kicks off at 1500CET on Thursday.
Alcohol was available for Switzerland’s clash with Albania last Saturday, but a ban during the days surrounding England’s match with Wales had already been mooted prior to the start of the tournament.
Concern about the behaviour of fans has grown in recent days after a series of violent confrontations, most notably between Russian and English supporters in Marseille.
Six English nationals were jailed as a result of skirmishes in the city, with riot police dispersing troublemakers using teargas.
UEFA announced on Tuesday that the Russian Football Union had been handed a suspended disqualification from the tournament following the violence that flared following the final whistle at the Stade Velodrome.