The BBC, police and local authorities are considering blanking out big screens across the country after violent scenes at the Canary Wharf screening of England's laboured 1-0 victory (we did say they struggled in the heat) over Paraguay on Saturday. Police were called at 3:30 pm as around 200 of the 6,000 fans gathered in Canada Square threw missiles and fought, an affray some witnesses said began with youths throwing beer over each other. Sixteen people were injured including six who were taken to hospital, but no arrests were made. Police ordered the screen to be switched off ten minutes before the end of the game and the remaining supporters gradually dispersed. There was also trouble at a similar screening in Liverpool.
A BBC spokesperson commented:
The BBC has been operating city Big Screens successfully for a number of years as part of the Public Space Broadcasting Project. We have never had crowd problems at any of the screens before, and it should be remembered that yesterday well over 50,000 people watched the England v Paraguay matches on screens operated by the BBC.
As Saturday's events suggest it is the police and councils who have the final say in whether or not such events go ahead. In advance of the world cup the BBC heeded such advice in Birmingham and fans were surprised when they arrived in Chamberlain Square to find England's match not being shown there, even though other games had been.
Londonist has personal experience of similar treatment. A depressing moment in a largely excellent trip to France '98 was turning up to the riverside "grand écran" in Toulouse on the evening of 18th June to watch the hosts vs. Saudi Arabia only to discover the screen switched off and the area in front of it deserted. When we asked around it became clear that we were forced to watch the game on a portable at a fast food caravan because of the nervousness of the authorities at England fans beginning to arrive in town for the upcoming Romania game. There had been trouble at a mass screening on the beach in Marseilles of England's opener against Tunisia.
We're delighted to say that such problems are now a rarity at away games involving England thanks to a shift in attitude amongst travelling fans bolstered by brave supporter initiatives, but also by banning orders stopping known troublemakers from travelling. There's no evidence of a link as yet, but is it just a co-incidence that as those restrictions bite trouble is now starting on home soil where large crowds gather to watch England play?
For an alternative to Canada Square on Thursday when England take on Trinidad & Tobago at 5pm snap up one of the 15 remaining £7 tickets for Frank Sidebottom's World Cup Extravaganza at the Bull & Gate close to the Kentish Town tube station.
Soho's Frith Street will be the epicentre of London fan fervour tonight as Italy take on Ghana. Bar Italia and it's neighbours will be packed out so get there as early as you can. There's also Carluccio's in St. Christopher's Place near the Bond Street underground which is holding special events for all Italy's group games. For the opposition point of view you could try the Ghanaian Village Community Restaurant in Battersea or the Accra Nima in Vauxhall.
Picture of the scene in Canada Square less than half an hour before trouble broke out via Bruno Girin's Flickr stream.