Italian ambassador assures Mellor over treatment of football fans

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The former minister David Mellor yesterday said he had won assurances from Italian authorities about how English fans will be treated at this weekend's crucial World Cup qualifying match in Rome.

Mr Mellor, the head of the Government's new football task force, had voiced fears that travelling supporters would be treated like "animals" by Italian police, facing three separate searches and having many possessions - including coins - confiscated

However, after a 45-minute meeting yesterday with the Italian ambassador Paolo Galli, Mr Mellor said he had been informed that the English contingent would receive a "warm welcome" in Rome. The former Conservative Arts minister, who was accompanied by representatives of supporters' groups, said he had also been told that English fans would be treated the same as Italians.

He said: ``The Chief of Police in Rome has assured the ambassador that the civil rights of visiting supporters will be respected, and oppressive policing will not be a feature."

Mr Mellor added: "[The Italian ambassador] assured me nothing will be done to the English fans that will not also be done to Italian fans.''

However, following the news that British police have already identified 670 known trouble makers among those going to Italy, Mr Mellor and rest of the delegation recognised the need to tackle a small minority of "scum" who follow England.

"Some people will behave badly, but the art of policing is to differentiate between people who behave badly and those who do not," he said.

Ten thousand fans are expected to travel to the match,including up to 1,000 without tickets.