Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 12:23 UK

What can UK fans expect in Moscow?

By Sarah Bell
BBC News

Chelsea fans
Chelsea fans will be hoping for success in Russia

As 40,000 Chelsea and Manchester United fans pack their bags for the Champions League final in Moscow, what sort of welcome can they expect?

With images of Rangers fans clashing with police fresh in many minds, plus talk of exorbitant prices, some could understandably be feeling a little wary.

The Russian authorities are said to be "pushing the boat out" to welcome the British contingent, laying on a fleet of 700 buses to transport fans directly from the airports to supporters' "camps", then on to the stadium.

And the usually stringent visa regulations have been relaxed.

The iconic Red Square in Moscow, where large crowds are not usually allowed to gather, will also be at the disposal of the football fans, who have been told they are welcome to explore Moscow before the kick-off at 2245 local time - so long as they behave with "respect".

No street drinking

But there will be no big screens erected to enable those without tickets to view the match. Any who disregard the advice from the two British clubs and travel to Moscow without tickets will have to watch in bars and cafes.

Fans will also have to contend with strict rules on street drinking, with alcohol consumption banned in all public areas in Moscow.

And there will be no alcohol on sale at the stadium.

Those who flout the rules are warned they will be arrested.

Arrests are also promised for those participating in anti-social behaviour, which officials say includes the displaying of banners with "provocative" comments and the carrying of sharp objects.

There will be a substantial police presence in Moscow for the match, with more than 6,000 police and military from the Ministry of Interior being put on stand-by. But the Russian authorities have assured fans there will be no heavy-handed policing.

Beery or violent?

The country's bid to host the Olympics could well be its incentive to impress, said Stephen Thomas, lead on football policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

"I can't think of anything more the Russian government could do to make people welcome. They really are pushing the boat out," he said.

He is one of 18 officers from the UK flying out to help their Russian counterparts next week.

They will help spot known troublemakers but are primarily there to guide the local officers on British behaviour to ensure they don't overreact to situations.

This includes making the key distinction between whether the fans are causing trouble, or just being drunk and loud.

Russia is a very different country, we don't fully understand its customs and laws, so do whatever the police tell you to do
Stephen Thomas

He explained: "The Russian police are not experienced in seeing lots of England fans who have been drinking heavily, making lots of noise, but having a great time, so we will be ensuring they don't misread the situation.

"We are doing all these things to make it as comfortable as possible for the fans."

Speaking on Thursday, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said: "It will all be done in a very polite way and very carefully. If they act and behave respectfully, there will be no problems."

And he pledged there would be no repeat of the violent scenes between police and Rangers fans in Manchester on Wednesday night.

"We will have everything different here... and of course the fans of the losing team are going to be disappointed."

He added: "We are doing all these things to make it as comfortable as possible for the fans."

Russian hooligans

Banning orders have been served on 152 fans of Chelsea and Manchester United, who are required to hand in their passports before the match, ensuring they cannot travel.

Mr Thomas is confident the British fans will remain peaceful.

He said: "There is no history of disorder between the teams. They show rivalry but it's good natured, I have no concerns about trouble between our own fans."

Perhaps of greater concern is the reputation of Russian hooligans, who model themselves on the violent English supporters from the 1970s and 80s.

Mick Groom
Mick Groom says Man Utd fans expect to have a great time in Moscow

"There is a risk of disorder involving local groups but that is a matter for the local police to deal with," Mr Thomas said.

These hooligans caused problems when England played Russia in the Euro championships, but he thinks it will be less of a problem this time.

Many Russians support Chelsea because of its owner's nationality, while Manchester United is supported around the world.

And his advice to fans? "Russia is a very different country, we don't fully understand its customs and laws, so do whatever the police tell you to do."

Mick Groom, from the London branch of the Manchester United supporters club, said he was not concerned about the trip.

"I have been to over 30 matches abroad now and have never been arrested and I'm not going to be now," he said.

"We could see Russian fans coming to Moscow looking for British fans. The only concern we've got is police being heavy-handed for no reason.

"Saying that, we expect to have a great time over there."

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