'Miserly' French are accused on cup tickets

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ARGUMENTS over the allocation of World Cup tickets to fans of England, Scotland and other countries dominated an international security summit for the competition held yesterday by Jack Straw, Home Secretary.

The seminar, in his Blackburn constituency, was used by Tony Banks, Minister of Sports, to register anger at the "miserly" attitude of the French hosts, and to warn they could weaken security arrangements.

At the same time 22 Liberal Democrat MPs signed a motion condemning the French ticketing authorities, claiming what they had done is "in breach of the single market regulations and completely disregards the instructions issued by the European Commission".

The moves came after the Football Association learned with "astonishment and dismay" that England fans had been allocated fewer than 10,000 tickets for the opening games. Only 2,500 tickets will be available for the fans to see the match with Colombia in Lens, near Lille, on 26 June.

"This is making something of a mockery of a great footballing festival," Mr Banks said. "This seminar is all about security and this ticket issue will come up in quite a big way. Ticketing and security are very closely linked. I will make sure the feelings of the football supporters, the Government and the FA are made quite clear."

Mr Straw said of the allocations: "There is obvious and understandable concern by many of the nations participating in the World Cup about their ticket allocations", and added that discussions were continuing.

Police and football chiefs from 22 countries including Dominique Spinosi, security director of the French World Cup organisers, and George Querry, the senior French police officer involved, attended yesterday's summit. Mr Straw said: "We are having discussion with them, but they have to work within a framework established by Fifa, and there is an enormous demand."

To counter the threat of violence by fans the Home Office proposed that people convicted of football-related offences in France be banned from travelling to any other matches in the World Cup tournament.

There are already similar agreements with six other European countries. They enable British courts to make offenders report to police stations at match times. Mr Straw wrote to courts and prosecutors before Christmas urging them to use the powers more often. The number of people effectively banned from travelling on certain days has since increased from about 10 to 34.

Mr Straw wants fans to inform on hooligans by contacting a "hooligans hotline" re-launched by the National Crime Intelligence Service. The number is 0800 515495.