English well-behaved on and off pitch at Euro 2012

English well-behaved on and off pitch at Euro 2012

Published Jun. 18, 2012 7:46 p.m. ET

It's the new, well-behaved English.

For once at a major tournament, all the talk surrounding the England squad is about matters on the pitch.

The fans are not causing any trouble, the players' families are avoiding any high-profile late-night escapades and the team is living up to its intention to be ''good tourists'' at the European Championship.

''We have found the location of our base in Krakow to have worked really well,'' Adrian Bevington, managing director of the England team, told The Associated Press. ''The players have been professional at all times but with the ability to relax at appropriate times.''


Even the British police following the fans have been kept quiet

''We have been pleasantly surprised by the reception we've had in Ukraine,'' Andy Holt, the head of Britain's policing operation at the Euro 2012, told the AP. ''Fans have enjoyed themselves more than they had anticipated and there have been no major problems ... I saw the England team walk about in Poland, and the opening training session they've done helps enormously.

''It portrays the England team in a positive light and it rubs off onto all England fans.''

A more open approach was ushered in after England players expressed unhappiness about only being allowed to leave their isolated South Africa base on rare occasions during the 2010 World Cup.

That was to avoid a repeat of the circus of the 2006 World Cup when the players' wives and girlfriends - the so-called WAGS - dominated the headlines with their glammed-up trips and high-jinx in the German town where the team was also based.

The WAGs are back, but a new generation of them.

At England's Krakow base, they have been acting more gracefully than the 2006 troupe, not deflecting attention away from their partners.

Unlike in South Africa, the players feel more relaxed in the environment created by new coach Roy Hodgson, who imposes few of the strict rules enforced by Fabio Capello.

''All the squad are happy, we're all playing in the games room together, in and out of each other's room and enjoying it,'' striker Wayne Rooney said. ''It's a happy camp at the moment ... the manager trusts his players.''

They have been free to leave the base and eat around Krakow rather than attending formal team dinners every night.

''Treating people as adults when they are adults is the best way of getting a working relationship with them,'' Hodgson said.

That relationship has put England on the brink of the quarterfinals with a draw against Ukraine on Tuesday enough to take them through.

But there will only be a few thousand England fans in the 50,000-capacity stadium in Donetsk due to the logistical challenges and costs of traveling to the outer reaches of Europe to follow the team at Euro 2012.

''It's the smallest turnout of fans I can remember,'' said Kevin Miles of England's Football Supporters' Federation. ''But it's been a positive experience.''

Those who have made the trip to see England draw against France and beat Sweden in Group D have helped to further rehabilitate the image of England fans from the trouble-making hooligans who once haunted the national game.

Not one fan has been arrested since the start of the tournament, a stark contrast to Euro 2000 when 374 were detained after clashes with Germany supporters on the eve of a match in Charleroi, Belgium.

''I am here to make sure Ukrainian police judge England fans on current behavior rather than past reputations, and any action they do take is appropriate and proportional,'' said assistant chief constable Holt from Britain. ''There was still an anticipation among Ukrainians when we first got here that England fans would cause problems and be aggressive. We've been working to ensure a more accurate picture is painted.''

In the last decade, the British government has acted to prevent hooligans being able to travel abroad for matches. Some 2,000 people had to hand in their passports ahead of Euro 2012 under the terms of footballing banning orders.

The one blot at Euro 2012 has been the decision by UEFA to charge the English FA over an apparent attempt by fans to invade the pitch during Friday's match against Sweden in Kiev.

Holt fears there could be more serious trouble on Tuesday when co-host Ukraine must win to avoid elimination.

Holt said he was surprised that only around one in 10 people wearing England tops here for last Monday's draw against France were in fact English. The rest were believed to be Russian, with the border around an hour away.

''God forbid that tomorrow there are images of people in England shirts getting involved in violence and disorder, the first job is to check out the provenance of the people,'' Holt said.


Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris