Analysis

Overall, on 5 November and on 6 November up until late in the afternoon, there was a relaxed atmosphere throughout the city and a good (normal) relationship between the visiting Scottish supporters, Amsterdammers, tourists and the Amsterdam police.

Ajax hooligans displayed serious provocative behaviour, initially in Glasgow on 22 October and then again in Amsterdam. I refer to the premeditated hit-and-run attack on unsuspecting Scots present in Amsterdam’s Old Sailor pub, which took place on 5 November. I absolutely condemn this cowardly attack. This, in combination with the massive numbers of Celtic supporters present who were in themselves not a risk but indeed very intoxicated, caused an unacceptably negative influence upon public order in the city on the Wednesday afternoon. I interpret this hooligan behaviour as possibly the most important cause for the emergence of disorder between the Celtic supporters and the Amsterdam police at Dam Square on 6 November at around 17:30.

From the statement of facts, I have concluded that all necessary measures were taken by the police in their preparations and focussed on preventing escalation. At the same time, I must note that it is impossible to completely prevent and rule out all escalations and flashpoints, such as those that occurred. The combination of drunken and provoked men, who were already anticipating an exciting football match, is always potentially dangerous.

All in all, the police in the city faced a major challenge to continue to separate the Ajax hooligans from the groups of Celtic supporters, whereby a major escalation threatened to take place on Dam Square at around 17:30.

In relation to the images of the actions of a group of police officers in plain clothes who are trained to make arrests during riots (known as 'grab squads' or AE agents), I note that the agents were met with excessive violence from some of the Celtic supporters and no fewer than seven agents were injured. For a short time the AE agents no longer felt safe. They must and are expected to react proportionately in such a situation. In the trial of the arrested Celtic supporters (on 21 November 2013), the magistrate ruled that given the circumstances, the conduct of the police was proportionate and that the behaviour of the five supporters was punishable. I conclude, however, that in this specific case, we were not sufficiently successful in avoiding the necessity of such action, or at least to better protect the individual agents.

From the statement of facts, it appears to me that the actions of the police between 17:30 and 18:00 ultimately prevented further escalations around Dam Square.

How to proceed?

Football matches must be organised in such a way that supporters of both clubs, as well as residents and local business owners never feel threatened or intimidated. Not only in and around the stadium, but also in the city centre or in public transport. Hooligans are a very small minority that cause much misery. This demands for extra prevention and a rigorous approach to rioters and the immediate circle that facilitates them. Our historic city centre must be available to everyone [1], and this calls for the imposition of a minimum of general mitigation measures. Such does justice to residents and businesses as well as ‘normal’ supporters.

On the basis of this statement of facts, I propose tightening the following football policies:

  • Working with Ajax and supporters clubs to find a mix of preventative and repressive measures to tackle hooligan behaviour, including that of the newest generation.
  • The maximum and targeted use of existing instruments (removal orders, group bans, area exclusion orders based on General Municipal Regulations (APV), emergency decree and/or football governance) to quickly intervene and nip the behaviour of Ajax hooligan groups in the bud, and preventing the priming effect of groups of hooligans.
  • With the policing policy experts (Driehoek), I will discuss short-term plans over the available capacity of the cooperating organisations so that it becomes possible to act upon hooligans quicker and better, also on the basis of football governance.
  • In the city centre it is difficult to impose an alcohol ban on football match days. Regarding the maintenance of an alcohol ban, I propose the following:

a)     the possibility to curtail the area of the alcohol ban on match days so that the ban can be more effectively enforced

b)     for each international match, consider whether sales restriction regulations are necessary, and if so, implementing this (such as the temporary measures on Queen’s Day)

c)     installation of a formal moment during preparations, in which a critical decision about the enforcement of an alcohol ban in the city centre is made

  • The coming period should be used by the policing policy experts to examine how AE units can be effectively utilised during football events. In doing so, more attention will be given to examining how riot police (ME) can provide better support to AE agents.

Mr. E.E. van der Laan
Burgemeester van Amsterdam


[1] With the exception of groups of hooligans of which police intelligence shows that they come to Amsterdam with the aim of rioting.


Download the complete Statement of facts, published on 29 November 2013.