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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK


Ten arrested after St Etienne scuffles

French police: Blamed locals

French police arrested 10 people, most of them locals, in the aftermath of minor scuffles in St Etienne ahead of England's second round World Cup match against Argentina.

The BBC's Adam Mynott reports on the scuffles
The 10 were detained after locals clashed with England fans in the town centre during coverage of Monday night's Holland-Yugoslavia game on a giant video screen.

Riot police took to the streets when rowdy groups threw bottles and glasses at each other.

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

[ image: St Etienne:
St Etienne: "An explosive cocktail of fans and locals"`
Police intervened, charging a group of several dozen people and making several arrests.

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

The British Consul in St Etienne said that officials were satisfied that England fans had not caused the trouble.

Two had been detained for drunkeness but had not been arrested, he added.

Fears over 'Barrabravas'

But despite the disturbances, St Etienne's authorities are standing by their earlier decision not to impose an alcohol ban across the area ahead of the England match.

Authorities there say the only additional security measure they will take is switching off the large video screen.

[ image: British police: Plain clothes hooligan spotters in France]
British police: Plain clothes hooligan spotters in France
There are also continued fears that a hardcore of England hooligans and their Argentinian counterparts - known as the Barrabravas - could clash.

The Argentian gangs, many of whom work as criminal thugs for hire, have been reported as threatening to confront English fans.

Violent gangs of Barrabravas were blamed earlier this year when Argentinian authorities suspended the entire football league in an attempt to impose security ahead of the World Cup.

Chris Moss, a journalist working in Argentina, told BBC News 24: "There is a perception here that no matter what happens the (English) hooligans will take on the so-called Barrabravas, and a sense that they may win that one, if not the (game) inside."

Many of the 20,000 England fans expected in St Etienne will end up watching the match in bars and restaurants where alcohol will be freely available.

Bars will be closing at 2300 local time and no alcohol will be sold in the area around the stadium.

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

But British police are continuing to work with their French colleagues in an attempt to weed out potential trouble-makers.

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