Channel ports alert for Cup hooligans

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MUCH of the hooliganism expected to take place during the World Cup could break out en route to the matches rather than at the games themselves, police said yesterday.

With security at the stadiums likely to be very tight, police believe service stations along the French autoroutes and other stopping-off points could be the flashpoints where violence breaks out.

With the first game of France 98 just a week away, the British authorities have stressed they are doing all they can to prevent the hard-core of troublemakers even getting across the Channel.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced that the number of restriction orders placed against suspected hooligans had risen to 65. The orders require the person to report to a police station during the matches or face up to six months' imprisonment. He also announced new bilateral arrangements with the French under which anyone convicted of a football-related offence in France can be put in front of magistrates on their return to Britain.

From next Monday, specialist football intelligence officers will mount a round-the-clock watch at all of Britain's ports and airports to try and identify known troublemakers and prevent them travelling to France.

"We will provide the French with the very best intelligence we can to help disrupt the activities of any British football hooligans," said Inspector Peter Chapman, head of the National Criminal Intelligence Service's football unit.

"The French have identified that many of the problems could take place at motorway service stations," he added.

The large, open-air screens which will broadcast the matches live in the cities where games are taking place - and where alcohol is likely to be sold - have also been identified as likely trouble-spots.

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