England fans face tight security in Rome

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The Independent Online
A tight but low-key security ring greeted the first several hundred England football fans to arrive in Rome for today's big World Cup match against Italy. With Italian police, backed by British colleagues from the National Criminal Intelligence Service, on full alert, the first waves of charter flights and train arrivals passed off without incident

However, later there were some minor skirmishes between England fans and Italian police around the railway station area and one fan walked away with blood pouring from the back of his head after apparently being hit by a police baton. Seventeen English fans were also detained for drunkenness. As a precaution, police earlier ordered bars in areas where fans were gathering to stop serving alcohol. And from 7am today, for 24 hours, it will be impossible to buy alcohol around the station, the Olympic stadium where the match is being played, or the city's two airports.

Fans arriving at Ciampino airport had their bags meticulously searched, before travelling in specially laid-on taxis to their hotels. Smaller clusters of fans turned up at Termini, Rome's main railway station. No serious problems were reported. Police vans were stationed at strategic points around the city, particularly at tourist draws such as the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. But the general atmosphere was relaxed.

The one concern focused on English fans buying last-minute tickets - some for as little as pounds 20 - from the Olympic Stadium. Some 6,000 tickets had been presold and a special area inside the stadium reserved for English fans. The tickets touts, however, were selling places in the Italian area of the ground, raising the possibility of clashes.

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