Belgians ready to lock up English hooligans

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The Independent Online
POLICE in Belgium have made emergency plans to lock up English football hooligans expected at a European Cup Winners' Cup match in Bruges on Tuesday.

The Belgian authorities are determined that the Bruges versus Chelsea match will not see a repeat of of the violence at Lansdowne Road in Dublin 10 days ago.

They are particularly sensitive to the threat of football violence from English fans since the Heysel Stadium disaster in Brussels in 1985, when, during a European Cup final match involving Liverpool, 39 people were killed after a wall collapsed on fans trying to escape from charging hooligans.

Belgian police are in London this weekend and detectives from Scotland Yard and the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) are travelling to Belgium with English fans to point out known troublemakers. All tickets for the match at the18,000-seater stadium have been sold. On Friday the Belgian government agreed emergency powers to detain suspected thugs for up to 12 hours without charge if they do not have a ticket.

Most of those travelling in the hope of buying tickets in Bruges will be turned back at the border. Police are watching the Belgian ferry ports and the borders with France.

Hugo Michiels, of the National Gendarmerie at the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, said a special squad of 400 officers will be drafted in to police the game: "People who try to attend the match without tickets will be considered troublemakers. We will identify them all and arrest them - you may be sure of that.

"We want to maintain law and order here in Belgium. We have had our own problems with hooligans. We don't want others to come here to give them renewed courage. It will be helpful for Britain too if there is no trouble because in 1996 you have the European championships to stage."

The Belgians want no repeat of the embarrassment suffered by Irish police after the rioting in Dublin. NCIS officers had provided them with details of English hooligans but the Gardai failed to pass these on to the Irish football authorities.

A spokesman for NCIS confirmed yesterday that British officers would be providing the Belgians with intelligence on known hooligans. "We've been speaking to them since early in January. They have dealt with problems before and they are better prepared than the Irish."

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