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Friday, February 27, 1998 Published at 11:46 GMT



Special Report

Police join forces to beat hooligans
image: [ Police chiefs from EU states will be sharing ideas about tackling hooliganism ]
Police chiefs from EU states will be sharing ideas about tackling hooliganism

Senior police officers from across Europe have gathered for a seminar to share their experiences in tackling football hooliganism.

The seminar presents one of the last chances for pooling ideas about the Europe-wide menace of crowd violence in advance of this summer's Football World Cup in France.


Jack Straw: "We are making huge efforts." (1'30")
The French authorities have made extensive preparations for the tournament, which kicks off in June. But the issue of ticketing still threatens to be a flash point among fans.

Only 20% of the total allocation for each match are distributed among competing teams and that has raised fears of supporters being shut out from watching their side play.


[ image: Jack Straw opened the seminar]
Jack Straw opened the seminar
The conference has been organised by British Home Secretary Jack Straw as one of a series of events for the UK presidency of the European Union.

Police officers from all 15 EU member nations are meeting at Ewood Park, home to Blackburn Rovers FC and situated in Mr Straw's own constituency.

French security organisers will also attend two football matches over the weekend and witness British policing methods.

Violence threatens World Cup

Countries such as England, Holland, Belgium and Italy have all had first-hand experience of soccer violence and the issue threatens to blight World Cup festivities during the four-week tournament in June and July.

Britain, widely cited as the birthplace of football hooliganism, has led a sustained crackdown on the problem and believes other nations can learn from its experience.

"The principle is one of exchanging intelligence. We believe that all police forces have something to contribute to this debate and something to learn from it," said a Home Office spokesman.

Wide ranging debate

Mr Straw opened a wide-ranging debate that also involves several European footballing associations.

A closed session is also planned for police to discuss confidential matters of intelligence. This session is expected to spill over into Saturday morning.

One of the most high-profile guests is Dominique Spinosi, security director of the French World Cup Committee.

She is already well versed in British police practices towards crowd control, having called on UK experts in preparation for the tournament, which brings together players and fans from 32 countries.


[ image: Crowd violence has blighted many international football matches]
Crowd violence has blighted many international football matches
"The French are drawing on the British recognised model established by British police," said a Home Office spokesman.

"That means stewarding inside the ground, a low police presence around the stadium but backed up by more determined policing acting on intelligence which is collated by the National Criminal Intelligence Service"

Potential for trouble

Assistant Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, Tim Hollis, is representing England at the conference. He will travel to France in June and will be a key player in spotting troublemakers among England fans.

Mr Hollis comes to Blackburn direct from Lens in northern France, where England is due to play its last qualifying group match, against Columbia, on June 26.

"From our meetings with the French it is clear that they are well aware of all the issues involved in preparing for the competition and I am confident that, working together, we can minimise the difficulties," said Mr Hollis.

But he is realistic that despite the extensive preparation, there is always "some potential" for trouble.

"Even beyond the World Cup, [the European Championships are] barely two years away and we need to consider what needs to be done to strengthen European coordination for the future."
 





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In this section

Soccer hooliganism: Made in England, but big abroad

French choose British antidote to football ills

Euro 96 - the model football tournament

Football hooligans warned





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Five Nations

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Welfare Reform

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Elgar

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Bon Appetit

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