20,000 fans, 5,000 rooms, not many tickets

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of English football fans arriving in Marseilles today for tomorrow's World Cup match with Tunisia are likely to find themselves without anywhere to stay. There are only 5,263 hotel rooms and many are raising rates by up to 50 per cent. By kick off, there could be up to 20,000 fans here, most without either tickets for the match or booked accommodation.

Despite the acute shortage of space, police have warned supporters they will not be allowed to sleep on the beach. But police have given many bars permission to stay open until 4am. They appear to believe that, by the time supporters stumble outside, it will almost be light and time to head for cafes.

Tourism officials have admitted there is an accommodation problem in the city and are doing what they can. "We have set up a hotline to help people find somewhere in the area, but at busy times like this we could do with another 4,000 rooms," said Max Tissot, assistant manager of the tourist accommodation office.

The Football Supporters' Association is co-ordinating legal action on behalf of fans who lost out on promised tickets when a ticket firm ceased trading. Up to 25,000 UK supporters might have had their chances of watching a World Cup match dashed when Great Portland Entertainments went bust recently.

"People are very angry," said Kevin Miles of the FSA. "Apart from the financial rip-off, a lot of people have had their hopes raised and then they have discovered they won't get there."

The FSA has asked sporting litigation specialists McCormick's to take the action to the civil courts. Solicitor Richard Cramer, leading the action, said he believed the fans had a very good chance and could get hundreds of pounds in compensation.

t Eleven English football fans spent the night in the cells after being arrested for brawling and vandalism in Calais on Friday, said French police.

English invasion, page 4