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UKSF To Protect British Euro 2016 Teams

28.12.2015

United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) will deploy to France next summer to protect UK football teams during the Euro 2016 tournament.[1]

In response to the Paris terror attacks, French officials have invoked a mutual defence clause in the Treaty on the European Union. Article 42(7) calls for EU member states to provide aid and assistance to any EU nation under armed aggression.

According to the Mirror, Britain will be deploying members of the 22nd Special Air Service (22 SAS) to provide additional security for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish team that are taking part in the tournament. Wales is first to play, drawn against Slovakia on the 11th of June, with an early evening kick off. Later that night, England plays Russia at the Stade Velodrome, Marseille. Security will be tight for this fixture, as both countries represented are currently bombing ISIS. Northern Ireland debuts the following evening with its game against Poland.

It is not clear exactly what role any UKSF operatives will play in the security operation or what there remit would be. The SAS are experts in close protection and may provide bodyguards for the British teams during training sessions, at their hotels and while the team is in transit. They may also operate in an undercover surveillance role, scouting routes and venues for signs of trouble. They may be assisted in this task by the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), who specialise in covert surveillance. According to the Mirror report, small SAS and SRR liaison teams have been active in France following the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015.

Another question raised by such an operation is: would a UKSF operative operating on French soil would be allowed to carry and use firearms. Would the invokation of Article 42 by France provide a legal basis for an armed UKSF deployment there?

This would not be the first such overseas security deployment for UKSF. Teams from the SAS and Special Boat Service (SBS) deployed to Greece to assist in security operations for the 2004 Olympic games.[2] In 2014 it was reported that the SAS were to provide security for British athletes attending the Winter Olympic games in Russia.[3]

French Police with Search and Intervention Brigade (BRI - Brigade de recherche et d'intervention) pictured with a bullet-ridden ballistic shield used when they stormed the Bataclan theatre during the November 13, 2015 terror attack in Paris. French Police and National Gendarmerie special operations units will be deployed during the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament. British special forces will also be taking part in the security operation, albeit in a much lower profile way.

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