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Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of collective behaviour among England football fans attending the European football championships in Portugal (Euro2004). Given this category's violent reputation, a key goal was to explore the processes underlying their apparent shift away from conflict in match cities. Drawing from the elaborated social identity model of crowd behaviour (ESIM) data were obtained using semi-structured observations and interviews before, during and after the tournament. Qualitative analysis centres first on three key incidents in match cities where the potential for violence was undermined either by ‘self-policing’ among England fans, or by appropriately targeted police intervention. These are contrasted with two ‘riots’ involving England fans that occurred in Algarve during the tournament. A phenomenological analysis of England fans' accounts suggests that the contexts created by different forms of policing helped bring to the fore different understandings of what constituted proper and possible behaviour among England fans, and that these changes in identity content underpinned shifts toward and away from collective conflict. The implications of this analysis for the ESIM, understanding public order policing, social change and social conflict are discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.