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The BBC's Ben Brown
"Belgium riot police are preparing for the worst"
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The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The British government has rejected calls to remove passports from known British hooligans"
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UK Home Secretary Jack Straw
You cannot easily take passports off people
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Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe
"Why on earth has he waited till now to do anything about it"
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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Hooligans escape tournament ban
Copenhagen violence
Trouble in Denmark heightened fears over Euro 2000
Home Secretary Jack Straw has stopped short of banning known English football hooligans from attending Euro 2000.

He is facing calls to bring in new banning orders from some football supporters' organisations and the opposition Conservative Party.

It is inevitable there will be trouble at Euro 2000

Football supporters' chairman Ian Todd
But he insisted at a meeting with ambassadors from Belgium and Holland - the joint hosts - that everything possible had been done to prevent hooligans from travelling to the games.

Up to 50,000 English fans are expected at the championships, which start on Saturday.

The major cause for concern is the first round match between England and Germany.

The German authorities have gone as far as confiscating passports from known hooligans.

UK Home Secretary
Jack Straw: Thugs will be turned back
But Mr Straw told the BBC: "You can't withdraw the passports of people just because you've got intelligence that they are football hooligans but they haven't got a conviction."

He added that the government was taking steps to stop violence breaking out by providing the Belgian and Dutch police with the names of hundreds of known hooligans - "whether they are convicted or unconvicted". They risk being turned back at the border.

After the summit with security chiefs from the host countries, Mr Straw said hooligans would face the harshest possible treatment.

It is just handing responsibility to someone else. It is OK saying to our European neighbours turn them away at your borders - why don't we stop them at ours?

Ann Widdecombe

Tough measures The home secretary insisted there would be a series of tough measures in place to prevent hooligans from disrupting the event.

"They all risk a quick return if they try to travel to the tournament," he said.

"Police will watch all our ports and airports and report the movement of fans to the police on the continent.

"Eurostar trains will have British Transport Police keeping an eye on fans travelling to Brussels."

Belgium and Holland have pledged to prosecute all hooligans, allowing magistrates in the UK to ban them from foreign games for 10 years.

Mr Straw said the security operations had been far more extensive than those undertaken before the World Cup in France in 1998.

In a marked contrast to the tactics employed by the French two years ago - they invited fans without tickets to come to France anyway - the Belgian ambassador to Britain has implored ticketless fans to stay at home.

Straw blames Tories

The home secretary blames the Conservatives for the failure of recent attempts to introduce bill banning football hooligans who have been convicted of offences in the UK from travelling abroad.

He said: "We wanted the bill to be wider than it turned out.

"Unfortunately an important provision which was for the withdrawal of passports with respect to those convicted of football hooliganism within the UK had to be dropped because the bill was disrupted by a minority of Conservative backbenchers."

< But National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs chairman Ian Todd said ministers should take out international banning orders on people who had not been convicted but where evidence existed of them being involved in soccer violence.

"It is inevitable there will be trouble at Euro 2000. The government is struggling to recover from a situation they made for themselves when they chickened out of introducing that legislation," he said.

Tory concern

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe lambasted Jack Straw for leaving it up to the host countries to deal with thugs, saying it amounted to an abdication of responsibility.

"He can't get away with it. Where has he been? We did not find out about Euro 2000 last week.

"It is just handing responsibility to someone else. It is OK saying to our European neighbours turn them away at your borders - why don't we stop them at ours?" She said

She said she had been "distressed" at reports that up to 300 people convicted of football violence were free to travel to Holland and Belgium despite being banned from games in Britain.

Istanbul violence
Border controls could stop hooligans travelling
In a letter to Mr Straw she said: "Given your express desire to see that all that can be done would be done to prevent a recurrence of the scenes we all saw in Copenhagen last month, would not extending those 300 banning orders to cover attendance at international football matches as well be a step in the right direction to achieving that goal?"

But the Liberal Democrats applauded the government's decision not to confiscate passports.

"Taking away passports from those who have not been convicted is over-stepping the mark and would clearly be an infringement of civil liberties," said home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes.

England's first game is against Portugal on 12 June.

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See also:

26 May 00 | England
Tournament boss backs Charleroi
27 May 00 | England
Hooligan law plea refused
21 May 00 | England
Riot fans banned from Euro 2000
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