Labour set to tackle football hooligans

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Indy Politics
A Labour government would crack down on British football hooligans abroad by discouraging other European Union countries from simply rounding up troublemakers and innocent supporters together and shipping them all back.

In a "Football Charter" to be launched today, Labour will propose a Europe-wide register of violent supporters and call for EU police forces to prosecute repeat offenders. The aim is to stop thugs travelling abroad, getting thrown out and then doing it again - copying the success of British authorities in excluding persistent offenders from grounds.

The charter accepts that domestic football violence has been much reduced, but says more can be done on the home front as well. It says a Labour government would "aid the progressive transfer to well-trained stewards" of many functions carried out by the police, thus freeing police resources for intelligence work and cutting the costs of policing to clubs.

A Labour source said: "We would also want to look at the consistency of financial charges imposed by the police for policing matches - some of the fees are driving the smaller clubs to bankruptcy."

The Football Charter, which follows an Anglers' Charter, is part of the party's populist drive to identify with mass culture. Jack Cunningham, Labour's national heritage spokesman, is also expected to write to the Government shortly outlining his concern about Sky Television's purchase of the rights to the first, second and third divisions of the Football League.

The issue is controversial because Labour hopes to neutralise the anti- Labour propaganda in newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. But many Labour MPs are critical of the Sky football deal because it means their constituents cannot see live English league football without owning a satellite dish.

There is also concern about the allegations of anti-competitive practices being made against the Murdoch empire by cable television companies. Mr Cunningham said: "We are approaching this issue from the point of view of ownership and broadcasting, not on the basis of any one individual or any one organisation."

The main theme of the charter is supporters' rights, and it promises to give genuine football supporters a say over the future of the sport for the first time - provided their representative bodies can "get their act together". The two main supporters' bodies, the Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs and the Football Supporters Association, would have to combine, the source said.

Tom Pendry, Labour's sports spokesman, is expected to announce today that in government Labour would set up a "task force" of representatives of spectators, players and clubs to look at a range of issues, including "bungs", laws against ticket touts and the way the sport's ruling body is run.

Labour sources claim already to have put pressure on the Football Association to streamline its decision-making. Last month the FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, failed with a plan to delegate the powers of the organisation's 90-plus councillors to an executive committee of between 10 and 15.