Straw in talks with France to head off World Cup violence

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Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said yesterday that the French authorities shared the widespread concern about the impact of ticket sales in this year's World Cup and the potential for violence.

Following a meeting with the French interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Straw said the host nation was "aware" of the problem that shortages of tickets for English and other fans could lead to rival supporters being located in the same area of the stadium.

At present, English supporters are being allocated only 4,000 tickets per group game, with a maximum of 2,000 more available from tour operators. The fear is that many fans will travel ticket-less to France in the hope of being able to buy tickets - which could be for any area of the ground - from touts.

Mr Straw said he was confident that the "vexed" question, created by huge demand for seats, would be dealt with fully by the French.

"We are closely working with them," said Mr Straw, who has accepted an invitation from the French government to attend this summer's tournament. He added that the French laws to deal with the potential problem are very strong.

The French Organising Committee (CFO) has already said it will clamp down on the sale of tickets by unauthorised agents and tour operators. The Independent revealed early this month that many are being advertised illegally, including on the Internet. The CFO has said that if it became aware of unauthorised sales, they would simply refuse to issue the relevant ticket. Around 60 per cent of the tickets are going to the French public, 20 per cent to participating nations and the remainder split between tour operators and sponsors.