Tougher curbs on football hooligans

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The Independent Online
SWEEPING POLICE powers to impose city-wide alcohol bans are to become law as early as this summer as part of a wider crackdown on football hooliganism, it emerged yesterday.

The new restrictions are likely to reach the statute book after the Government announced it would give its full backing to an MP's Bill to prevent troublemakers from travelling abroad or chanting racist abuse at home.

The Football Spectators' Offences Bill, drawn up by Simon Burns, Tory MP for Chelmsford West, would make it an offence for an individual to make racist or indecent chants at a football ground. It would also force suspected hooligans to surrender their passports to police before foreign matches and ban fans from British grounds for up to 10 years on conviction of a criminal offence.

More controversial government proposals to allow chief constables to impose city-wide bans on alcohol sales before a game will be suggested as amendments.

Civil liberties groups criticised the suggestion, as well as Home Office plans to allow courts to issue restriction orders even if a fan has not been convicted. However, ministers are determined to ensure the measures become law and will propose amendments to the Bill in the new year.

The Government is keen to get legislation in place to boost England's bid for the 2006 World Cup and to guarantee that the rioting that marred France 98 is not repeated at the European Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands in 2000.

Mr Burns, who came sixth in the MPs' ballot for private members' Bills, said yesterday he hoped the measures would help repair the damage caused by the England fans' exploits in Marseilles this summer. "We need to allow the police and courts to take greater action against those hooligans who besmirch the game of football, dishonour our national reputation abroad, and spoil it for decent, law-abiding football fans," he said.