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Thursday, February 26, 1998 Published at 18:46 GMT

French chose British antidote to football ills

English fans know how to have fun, but will they behave themselves?

"The British invented the poison of hooliganism, but they have also invented the antidote."

Dominique Spinosi, security chief of this summer's Football World Cup, is a straightforward person. She does not hesitate to say who she thinks is responsible for pioneering football violence (although the usually passive Scottish fans might take exception to her generalisation).

Thankfully, say British police, she takes the same straightforward approach to the job in hand. The French have been quite open about calling on British expertise in drawing up a security policy for the World Cup.

[ image: British police are worried about perimeter fences at some French grounds]
British police are worried about perimeter fences at some French grounds
The prospect of rioting drunken yobs is not the kind of lasting memory organisers relish, but judging by past European soccer tournaments, it is a very real one.

The French have been talking to British police for almost two years about security arrangements. The tone will be similar to that of a Premiership game in England: a relaxed police presence coupled with strong backup should there be trouble. Good intelligence is also a key issue, enabling police to pick out known troublemakers.

Tactics for a smooth run

French tactics for a smooth World cup include:

  • A state prosecutor to be posted at each match, to press for fast track justice.
  • Troublemakers being brought before the courts within 48 hours
  • Fining or instant deportation for hooligans and a minimum one-year prison sentence for those caught throwing missiles, inciting hatred or committing assault.

[ image:  ]
They are hoping to avoid scenes similar to those last October during England's match with Italy in Rome. Italian police were widely criticised for their strong-arm tactics when trouble broke out on the terraces.

Fifa, football's governing body, found that the ticketing and policing at the match were unsatisfactory.

And there are worries that the French authorities could make similar mistakes during the World Cup. Ticketing is the main concern. With only 20% of tickets for each game available to supporters of both sides there are fears that fans will be locked out and vent their frustration publicly. Those who buy on the black market may ending up standing among opposition supporters.

"There are 32,000 members of the England supporters club but we only have between three and 4,000 tickets for each game," says Steve Double, of the English Football Association.

"We have made representations to Fifa and there is talk of an extra 150,000 tickets across all group-stage games."

Fans must travel hundred of miles

Ticket shortages were also a problem at England's last World Cup in Italy in 1990, but Mr Double makes the point that France is much more accessible.

Another concern is that the Cup's first round groups are not rooted to a certain area, as was the case in Italy. England's three qualifying games are spread throughout the country and the prospect of fans having to travel hundreds of kilometres between matches is another headache for the authorities.

[ image: Alison Pilling wants support for football `embassies']
Alison Pilling wants support for football `embassies'
Security fences, dismantled at British grounds following the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 fans were crushed, are in place at some French stadiums and are another concern.

Alison Pilling, international officer of the Football Supporters Association in England, says the group cannot afford to set up the fan embassies which have been a valuable source of independent advice to supporters at previous tournaments.

"They were widely acknowledged as a great success but we have had no luck in getting funding this time. It's a shame," she said.

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