Double court appearance for World Cup convicts

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ANYONE convicted of a football-related offence in France during the World Cup can be put in front of magistrates on their return to Britain under a new Anglo-French agreement, it was announced yesterday.

The new bilateral arrangement was disclosed by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, who also said 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.

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 that service stations along the French motorways 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 that they are doing all they can to prevent the hard-core of troublemakers even getting across the Channel. From next Monday, football intelligence officers will mount a round-the-clock watch at all ports and airports in Britain to try and identify known troublemakers and prevent them travelling to France. In France up to 20 specialist officers from Britain's police forces will be at the various stadia to help spot known offenders and point them out to their French counterparts.

"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.

Police place fans in three categories: genuine, those who might cause trouble - particularly when drunk - and those whose primary reason for travelling to France is to cause trouble. They have so far remained tight- lipped on exactly how many of the latter category they expect to make it across the Channel, but some estimates put the number at no more than a few hundred.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Hollis, who is co-ordinating the involvement of the British police, admitted yesterday there was a degree of organisation amongst the hooligans. "They like to pretend they are very strictly organised," he said. "We don't believe that is the case but there is evidence of co- operation between different groups when it suits them."

Police yesterday arrested seven football fans from Greater London and the Home Counties following violence at a London pub used by Chelsea fans last April.

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