England and Wales supporters are facing an unprecedented police crackdown in Tenerife after football hooligans travelled to the Canary Islands to cause trouble instead of Qatar.
Spanish police have ordered a “special security operation” to prevent “possible riots” during Tuesday’s World Cup match following clashes between drunken England and Wales fans in Tenerife last week.
Thousands of supporters from both nations have travelled to the Canary Islands rather than face strict alcohol laws in Qatar, where public drunkenness can be punished with six months in prison.
Violence broke out after England’s 0-0 draw with the USA on Friday evening as dozens of rival fans were filmed punching and kicking each other, screaming abuse and smashing chairs.
Fighting between supporters has been almost entirely absent in Qatar, where beer is only available at around £12 a pint from licensed hotels and bars. Qatari authorities also made a late and much-criticised decision to ban the sale of alcohol at World Cup stadia.
Trouble is 'a matter for the Spanish'
Not a single British supporter has been arrested at the tournament so far, while around 1,300 England and Wales fans with a “history of football-related violence or disorder” have been banned from attending.
But after the fighting in Tenerife, Spanish police threatened mass arrests during a major crackdown orchestrated from Madrid.
“The Local Police of Arona and the National Police force have coordinated to implement a special security operation in the tourist area in view of the upcoming World Cup matches in Qatar,” a statement from the local council.
“After the events that occurred this week, both security forces have coordinated their actions to prevent possible riots in the upcoming World Cup matches in Qatar in the tourist areas of Arona. In particular, the one in which the Wales and England teams will participate.”
On Monday night a UK policing source said they were aware of the trouble in Tenerife but said it was a “matter for the Spanish”.
“They can handle it, but it’s a shame that people have gone to Tenerife to get drunk and cause trouble. Clearly they think the Spanish are a softer touch than the Qataris,” the source added.
Last week’s fighting began after England’s draw with the USA, which followed Wales’ surprise loss to Iran.
A video, filmed from a walkway overlooking a strip of nightclubs, showed England fans on one side of the street and Welsh supporters on the other. The footage begins with a group of men throwing punches at each other on a zebra crossing near the bars, with one of them brandishing a chair above his head.
One man in black is knocked to the ground by a punch from a man in an England top before he is then smashed with the chair by another shirtless attacker. A man carrying a Wales bucket hat also smashes a chair over the head of a man wearing an England shirt.
The camera then pans down the street to film an even larger group of people fighting outside the Revolution and Jumping Jacks bars. Numerous groups of fans brawl with each other, with some of them being knocked to the ground under a barrage of kicks and punches.
Over 2,000 Welsh fans in Canary Islands
More than 2,000 Welsh fans have travelled to the Canary Islands instead of Qatar after a viral Twitter post from Wales supporter Bethany Evans, from Nelson in Caerphilly, who said it all started as "a bit of a joke”. Hundreds of England fans have also travelled to the holiday island to watch the tournament.
In Tenerife, some Welsh supporters told The Telegraph that they expected further brawls during and after tomorrow’s match.
One group sat in the Wigan Pier bar in Costa Adeje, where the Wales supporters have set up camp, claimed the violence was started by the England fans.
"They started it because they were jealous of us. Probably because we're better than them", said 45-year-old mechanic Michael Exintaris.
Mr Exintaris, from Cardiff, was not involved in the fighting personally but said there was still tension in the town after the mass brawl last week.
"I was in this bar on Sunday and this one English guy came up to me, he was huge, he tapped me on the shoulder, because I was wearing my Wales top, and he just went 'get out'.
"I turned around and told him 'I'm having a drink mate'."
Sitting nearby, England supporter Phil Meadows, 73 and his wife Lynne, 61 from Grimsby said they were "certain something would kick off" during the game.
Mr Meadows, who is a regular visitor to Tenerife, said: "People out here were saying the lads involved in the fighting should have their passports taken off them and they shouldn't be allowed to fly for ten years.
"I am dreading what will happen down there tomorrow night. Without a doubt it will kick off. Most definitely. It's in the evening and they will have been on the pop all day.
"It's a shame because it's just bad publicity for all the normal fans and the bars."
The brawls last week took place outside the Revolution and Veronica bars in the Playa des Americas area of the island.
The strip is notorious for drunken violence and drug dealers selling cannabis, some of whom are British, operate openly in the broad daylight.
Street vendors said they had filmed the violence on their phone and said the area would undoubtedly be a hotspot for trouble on Tuesday night.
Ashley Brown, head of supporter engagement at the Football Supporters Association, claimed the troublemakers were “not real fans” of either England or Wales.
“These aren’t true supporters,” he said. “They just want an excuse to get drunk and have a fight.”
Officers sent to Qatar to avoid incidents
Both England and Wales football team managers joined forces with the Government before the World Cup to warn fans to respect Qatar’s drug and alcohol laws, while British police warned of the risk of England fans inadvertently offending Qatari locals. Around 15 officers have been sent to Qatar to help defuse any incidents.
Mark Roberts, Cheshire Chief Constable and English national football lead, said: “It’s a World Cup in a different part of the world with a very different culture, and I think one of my fears is that supporters not wishing to cause offence or cause problems may act in a way that inadvertently causes offence or draws attention.”
However Qatari organisers have hinted that supporters could be treated more leniently during the tournament and avoid jail for committing minor offences.
“Minor offenses won't result in a fine or arrest, but police will be instructed to go to a person and ask him or her to comply. Someone who removes a T-shirt in public will be asked to put his T-shirt back on. There is some sort of tolerance,” said the person familiar with the briefings sent to several European police forces.
Hooliganism and violence have marred celebrations of England men’s football team at major tournaments in recent years.
The Euro 2020 final was tarnished by thousands of fans breaking into Wembley for the final between England and Italy, with an independent review calling it a “day of national shame” that could have led to fatalities.
UEFA implemented a one-match ban on home fans against England and gave the FA a £84,500 fine.