Soccer-Europol ready for 'important security challenges' of scattered Euros

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Europol building in The Hague, Netherlands December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Staging the European Championship in 10 different countries during a pandemic poses serious security risks for police officers across Europe, police agency Europol said on Thursday.

"The Euro 2020 championship is of an unprecedented complexity", Europol executive director Catherine de Bolle told a news conference.

"It is the first ever organised by 10 different countries, instead of only one or two. It is also the first large-scale (sporting) event organised during the COVID-19 pandemic. All this presents important security challenges."

To streamline intelligence on potential threats during Euro 2020, which kicks off in Rome on Friday, Europol will host a team of around 40 police officers from 22 European countries at its Dutch headquarters in The Hague in the coming month.

They will try to support local police by sharing all relevant information on threats ranging from terrorism and cyberattacks to trafficking in counterfeit COVID-19 tests and ticket fraud.

"The most challenging aspect of this tournament is the amount of travel movement by supporters", the cooperation centre's chief Max Daniel said.

"Because of COVID, I think the number of hooligans will be limited. But it's still difficult for us because most of them will travel by car, and there will be a lot more movement because we play in several countries."

From their Dutch headquarters, the pan-European police team will also try to tackle a possible wave of cybercrime and fraud.

This could range from counterfeiting the COVID-19 health certificates that fans need to enter stadiums, to selling fake tickets and merchandise and trying to fix matches for online betters.

"Until now, we think it's still quiet at the front", Daniel said. "But we're alert."

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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