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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 14:26 GMT
PM brushes off England thug fears
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Prime Minister Tony Blair has told BBC Sport he is optimistic that England fans will not cause problems at next year's World Cup in Germany.

Blair told BBC TV's Football Focus that the government's policy of issuing banning orders on possible trouble-makers had been a success.

"We don't have a bad record on this now," said the prime minister.

"I'm hopeful. The German authorities who have been working with ours are reasonably optimistic as well."

Figures released on Saturday showed that a record number of football hooligans were prevented from attending games last season.

But Blair said that the lack of serious incidents during Euro 2004 in Portugal gave him confidence that the government's policy was working.

"We were fine in Portugal," added Blair.

"The fact that there are more banning orders is good in one sense because they are identifying who the culprits are.

"The number of arrests has gone down."

Blair said football could play a major social role in terms of keeping children away from crime.

"Football is part of our culture and our way of life in this country," he said.

"It has tremendous potential for helping kids at school.

Football is part of our culture
Prime Minister Tony Blair

"If you look at the good work that is being done in local communities with some of the most difficult kids, it's one of the best anti-crime things you can do."

Nevertheless, Blair said he was wary of the government getting too closely involved in the day-to-day running of the sport, preferring to leave it to the Football Association.

"We don't want to end up trying to run football - football can run football," he said.

"There are things like the Football Foundation where we're working very well together. I think Lord Burns' report is very good and the sooner it's implemented, the better.

"We do want it done more quickly (than the 15 months the FA have hinted at)."

Blair admitted it had been some time since he had last been to a match, but said he liked to watch games on a Sunday afternoon to relax.

"If I am really frank about it the main reason is whenever I go to a game, I find I'm usually sat in the directors' box and someone's talking to me about politics and I really want to watch the match," he said.

Wigan centre-back Arjan De Zeeuw
Wigan's Arjan De Zeeuw came in for praise from the prime minister

In the wake of London's success with the 2012 Olympics, Blair suggested he would be behind a possible English bid for the 2018 World Cup.

"If you think you have a shot at these things, go and have a go - that's my take on it," he said.

"If they want to do it. I wouldn't push them, but if they want to, why not?"

Blair also singled out three Premiership players who had caught his eye - Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque, Wigan defender Arjan De Zeeuw and veteran West Ham striker Teddy Sheringham.



05 Nov 05 |  UK News

09 May 02 |  England


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