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Thursday, January 1, 1998 Published at 15:29 GMT

Sport: Football

Mellor fears World Cup black market
image: [ David Mellor: Football must not
David Mellor: Football must not "break its umbilical cord to traditional fans"

David Mellor, head of the Government's football task force, has voiced fears that a "terrible black market" will grow up around the World Cup finals in France and cause trouble.

David Mellor tells BBC Radio's Today programme why he's worried about the World Cup
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the former Conservative Heritage Secretary criticised the French system of allocating match tickets and called for measures to stop British hooligans travelling to matches in France.

From the spectators' point of view, much hope was being invested in Home Secretary Jack Straw's planned summit in Blackburn of European police chiefs.

"We can't have a situation as happened in Italy where the Italian police were just looking to crack heads."

[ image: England and Italian fans clashed with riot police last October]
England and Italian fans clashed with riot police last October
Mr Mellor warned: "I'm very worried about the ticketing situation in France."

He said the French authorities were releasing only 20% of match tickets to their counterparts in the countries that were playing, with the rest being sold in France.

"I think there is going to be a terrible black market in these tickets," said Mr Mellor.

[ image:  ]
"That would be a problem. It would be awful if the World Cup were marred by spectator trouble."

Mr Mellor said he also hoped for progress in stopping hooligans travelling from Britain to France.

He said that if the French authorities could be supplied with a list of known troublemakers so they could be turned away at the borders, it would be helpful.

But he believed that was prevented by the Data Protection Act.

"We are vulnerable if nothing can be done about the travelling hooligan because he spoils it for the rest of the travelling fans with the risk of respectable people being caught up in police over-reaction, as happened in Rome."

'Silly money'

On the issue of ticket pricing by UK clubs, Mr Mellor said a balance had to be struck.

"When you are paying silly money for footballers - a million a year (which is) ludicrous - clubs have to raise money.

"But they have to do it in a principled way and bearing in mind that if they call themselves a great national game, they have got to have a sense of responsibility towards the traditional supporters."

He noted that people did not seem to object to footballers' high wages: "They resent fat cat businessmen with their noses in the trough but they don't seem to resent fat cat footballers earning more in a week than the supporter earns in a year."

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