2,000 police on stand-by for football violence

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The Independent Online
VIOLENCE INVOLVING football hooligans gathering today to watch England play Scotland at Wembley is most likely to take place in central London away from the match, according to police intelligence.

Scotland Yard will put into action a two-pronged plan involving nearly 2,000 officers aimed at heading off trouble both in the city centre and at the soccer ground.

More than 40 hooligan organisers and trouble-makers deemed "category C" by police - the most serious category - will be closely monitored throughout the day. Most are England fans.

Despite the potential for trouble during the match, the police believe that fighting and disorder among supporters, fuelled by alcohol, is more likely to break out in areas such as Trafalgar Square and the West End of the capital after the final whistle.

But the risk of widespread violence is believed to have diminished following Scotland's 2-0 defeat last Saturday, which is expected to have discouraged many ticketless Scottish supporters from travelling south to see the game.

About 30 English "category C" hooligans are known to have travelled to Scotland for the European Championship qualifying match in Glasgow.

They are not believed to have been among the 170 people who were arrested following running battles between rival fans in Glasgow city centre following the game.

Plain-clothed officer "spotters" from Strathclyde, the Metropolitan Police, and the football intelligence section of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) will be mingling with the crowds today to help head-off known troublemakers.

The Met will have more than 1,000 officers on duty in and around the Wembley stadium, with an additional 1,500 stewards in the ground, and about 500 officers on patrol in the city centre.

A Scotland Yard source said they had been warned that the most likely trouble spot would be in the city centre after the game.

About 200 hooligans convicted of football related offences have outstanding exclusion orders that ban them from going to the football stadium at Wembley.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Michael Todd, who is overseeing the police operation, said: "We will have a very heavy police presence at Wembley - there will still be opportunities for organised violence in other areas but that's why we are working with NCIS and the British Transport Police to make sure any violence does not spread.

"We will be keeping an eye on known hooligans and if they start trouble they will be arrested."

He added that tickets would be confiscated from touts outside the game and anyone found to be supplying them for resale would be banned from future matches.

A spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service said: "Because of Saturday's result we anticipate less people coming to the second match without tickets, which relieves some of the concerns we have."

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