Blair urges firms to sack hooligans

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COMPANIES WERE given legal backing by the Home Secretary last night to sack workers found guilty of football hooliganism at the World Cup after an appeal by the Prime Minister for employers to get tough with the troublemakers.

The Government acted last night amid rising fears that there will be more trouble involving England fans in Tou-louse, where Monday's game against Romania takes place.

The troublemakers who are in the firing line include a senior aircraftsman in the RAF, a Nuneaton railwayman, two postal workers and a London ticket agency clerk.

Mr Blair issued his call to employers after emergency talks with Jack Straw and George Robertson, the Secretary of State for Defence, who will tell the armed forces to make sure servicemen are dismissed, even if they cause trouble on leave.

Senior Home Office sources said the statement issued by Mr Straw was designed to be used by firms to protect themselves from legal action by workers against unfair dismissal if they appealed to tribunals over sackings after the World Cup.

Mr Straw said: "Clearly employers will have to look at the particular circumstances but they may well want to consider the impact of the behaviour of those individuals on the reputation of their businesses and their suitability to deal with customers and their fellow workers."

The statement was agreed with the CBI. Adair Turner, director general of the CBI, said that if employers believed that "proven hooliganism" could impact on their business then they "may wish to instigate a range of appropriate actions".

A Whitehall source said: "What we have got to do is name and shame these people and make it clear that they cannot nip across the Channel to cause mayhem, thinking they can get away with it."

Mr Blair's decision to call on firms to sack employees found guilty of offences connected with soccer hooliganism was a clear attempt to deter the troublemakers from causing more mayhem on Monday.

But it was also seen as an admission of failure by the authorities to stop the troublemakers travelling to the World Cup. Mr Straw explained to Mr Blair in their private talks that some of the troublemakers had not been on the police computers, had no police records, and were not known football hooligans. In those circumstances, it was almost impossible to stop them travelling abroad.

Sir Norman Fowler, the Shadow Home Secretary, has tabled amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill currently going through Parliament to enable police to apply to a magistrate for a restriction order against a fan if they have good reason to believe the individual is likely to cause trouble. But Home Office sources said the measure could not be introduced for the World Cup.