Thursday, June 01, 2006

UK police 'lock-down' 3,500 English football fans

Some 3,500 English citizens will be ordered to report to their local police stations at kickoff times or hand in their passports to prevent them attending the 2006 FIFA World Cup series in Germany. According to UK Sports Minister Richard Caborn, Britain's security organizations have compiled a list of people who could "pose a threat" at the tournament. Police will be on duty at airports, seaports and train stations to stop them from leaving the country.

Riots at the 1998 World Cup in France and Euro 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands prompted the British government to take tougher action to stop known troublemakers from traveling to England games. "The banning orders, which number about 3,500, will take out the core of what we see as the main troublemakers," Caborn said. "This was effective in Euro 2004 and hopefully it will work in Germany."

Even within England football supporters are being targeting by security forces. In the sleepy towns of Kidderminster, Stourport and Bewdley, for instance, West Mercia Police promise a heavy presence on match days involving England to crack down on troublemakers. According to the Express and Star, the police will use mobile CCTV units to spot and identify drunken hooligans and will be asking pub landlords not to promote binge drinking during the tournament.

"There is potential for a lot of trouble," James Bandy, deputy editor of Match, England's biggest football weekly, told Mary Jordan of the Washington Post. He said he believes most law-abiding fans applaud "anything to stop it."

However, in a new era of global terrorism, most English football fans yearn to travel the world in support of the "Three Lions" without being seen as the root of all evil.

"Take the so-called 'fans' embassy' ... a van or a car that gets a Cross of St. George sticker plastered on the side together with a phone number fans can call if in trouble," noted Danika Kirka of Associated Press. "The 'embassy' is driven to a conspicuous spot where England fans will see it, such as the center of town or the driveway of the stadium. Volunteers staffing the embassy try to answer the critical questions, such as 'Is it legal to drink in the streets?' If there are rumors about vendors having tickets for sold out games, the embassy will try to find out if they are true and where the tickets can be had," she wrote.

"You don't find that in the Rough Guide," Kevin Miles, the international coordinator of Football Supporters Federation, an independent fans organization with 130,000 members, told Kirka. Miles and other fans recognized that while there was plenty of criticism of England supporters, there was little help for them if they got into trouble. So in addition to founding the "embassy," a core of volunteers roam the streets of foreign cities to hand out information to fans describing the country they are visiting.

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