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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 23:02 GMT
England fans 'are not hooligans'
English and Tunisian fans fight in Marseilles
English and Tunisian fans fought at the 1998 World Cup
The vast majority of England fans following the team to the World Cup are not violent trouble makers, the UK government has reassured the Japanese authorities.

During a visit to the Japanese city of Osaka, Home Office minister John Denham said travelling supporters may be "enthusiastic, exuberant, noisy", but they are not hooligans.

As concern about the potential for clashes between rival supporters grows, Mr Denham said action was being taken to ensure England had a peaceful following.

He said 900 known hooligans had already been banned from travelling and more were likely to receive similar punishment before June's tournament.

'Reassured'

Japanese police are undergoing special riot training to help them deal with violence surrounding any of the matches held there.


It has been some years since there has been significant trouble with English fans abroad

John Denham
The tournament is shared with Korea, but England's Group F matches will be played in the Japanese cities of Osaka, Sapporo and Saitama.

Mr Denham said: "We are working to ensure that the small number of known troublemakers do not travel to Japan.

"I am confident that people... are coming here because they want to support the football team, to enjoy the World Cup and to enjoy visiting Japan."

He told the BBC Japanese officials were "clearly reassured" on hearing the measures being taken to stop trouble makers travelling abroad.

'No danger'

Assistance will be given to Japanese police in the form of "spotters" - British officers who will be on hand to identify fans with a history of violence before they have the chance to cause trouble.

They will also advise on the difference between merely rowdy fans and those intent on violence.

Mr Denham said: "It has been some years since there has been significant trouble with English fans abroad.

"We [want] to make sure there is no danger of that happening here."

Italy friendly

Mr Denham sought to reassure residents of the three cities, some of whom have taken out insurance against the possibility of damage by rioting England fans.

"I am obviously concerned that people are worried but it is a matter of reassuring them that the situation can be properly handled," he said.

Police officials from Osaka, Sapporo and Saitama, were in Britain on Wednesday to observe how the police handled security at England's friendly against Italy in Leeds.

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