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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK


Fans scuffle in build up to match

Fans have been banned from watching England on St Etienne's big screen

Minor scuffles have broken out in St Etienne where England meet Argentina for their crucial World Cup match.

Riot police took to the streets when bottles and glasses were thrown in the town centre, where fans had gathered to watch Monday's games on giant video screen.

[ image: Fans are prepared to pay £700 for tickets]
Fans are prepared to pay £700 for tickets
The town's mayor has decided not to enforce a wide-ranging alcohol ban imposed at England's previous matches.

It is believed a fight broke out in front of the giant screen towards the end of the match between Yugoslavia and the Netherlands.

A decision has already been taken to switch off the screen during England's match with Argentina.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said: "The incidents happened because of an explosive cocktail of local youths and English supporters."

Police intervened charging a group of several dozen people and arresting several.

Police said the atmosphere remained tense 30 minutes later, although no more incidents had been reported.

Extra British police officers have been sent to France to spot potential trouble makers ahead of the match.

There has been a desperate scramble for tickets for the match with black market prices of up to £700 for a precious ticket to the 36,000 capacity stadium

The official allocation for England fans is only 2,049 tickets.

Football Task Force chairman David Mellor has described the allocation as creating "one of the biggest black markets since the trade in nylons in the Second World War."

[ image: Extra police will try to prevent a repeat of violence in Marseille]
Extra police will try to prevent a repeat of violence in Marseille
But fans who cannot get in will be able to watch the match with a beer in bars and restaurants.

The only curbs on alcohol sales will be that bars will close at 11pm both tonight and tomorrow, after the match, and that no alcohol will be sold around the stadium area.

Some MPs have been quick to criticise the fact that England fans will be allowed to drink from 8.30am after violent scenes in Marseilles surrounding the match against Tunisia, when alcohol was widely available.

Fears have also centred around a hard core of Argentina fans who were known to be heading for the World Cup.

Some had said they intended to confront England fans in Marseille during the first round match against Tunisia.

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