ARRAS, France (AP) — More than 2,400 security officials will be deployed in Lens as the town prepares for an anticipated influx of 40,000 to 50,000 England and Wales fans for Thursday’s European Championship game, authorities said Tuesday.
The policing operation in the tournament’s smallest host city and its 35,000-capacity stadium has been intensified after clashes involving England and Russia fans around their opening Group B game in Marseille. The Stade Bollaert-Delelis can fit the entire population of Lens, whose narrow streets will be on lockdown for the visit of the British supporters.
“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 mobilized that day,” regional administration head Fabienne Buccio said at a briefing in Arras.
Police officers will be around and inside the stadium to help to separate fans. UEFA acknowledged segregation problems at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome contributed to Russian fans attacking their English rivals after the 1-1 draw.
“We have strengthened the safety systems on the inside of the (Lens) stadium,” said Buccio, the state prefect for the northern Pas-de-Calais region. “They will be present in the stands ready in order to intervene quickly in the stadium 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 be in place in parts of the region and on ferries from England.
Bars in Lens can sell beer as long as it’s less than 5 percent alcohol and it must be served in paper or plastic cups. Supermarkets will be banned from selling any alcohol from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Friday, Buccio said. Gasoline stations on the 30-kilometer (20-mile) route from Lens to Lille face the same 48-hour liquor ban.
Alcohol can also not be brought on trains for the journey of about 40 minutes to Lens from Lille, the city where many fans will be connecting through because of its direct rail link to London.
Policing in Lille is posing an additional challenge for authorities because Russia plays Slovakia in the other Group B game at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Wednesday.
In southern France, a bus carrying 29 Russian fans was stopped near the city of Nice on Tuesday amid concerns over further hooligan violence. An unspecified number of fans have been taken to detention centers, prefecture communications head Ariane Parachinia said.
Lille has already experienced violence involving supporters from Germany and Ukraine before the two teams played on Sunday. German police are appealing for people to come forward with video recordings of violence involving suspected German hooligans.
Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in Paris contributed to this report.