Police alert for Germany grudge match

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The Independent Online

Police are preparing to mount their biggest anti-hooligan operation ever for England's World Cup qualifier against Germany. The critical fixture on 1 September, seen by many fans as a grudge match, has been classified as "high risk" by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).

Now the police and intelligence agencies in England and Germany are planning the most stringent measures yet to stop tribal tensions descending into thuggery and to prevent "professional" hooligans from travelling to the game in Munich.

More than 500 new banning orders have been issued, which will stop convicted football hooligans from travelling. But Government sources warned that the "more ingenious hooligans" had worked out ways of thwarting the system, moving from their home addresses before banning orders could be issued – they have to be served in person – and getting duplicate passports.

"The police will have their work cut out stopping some of the more determined yobs from travelling and doing their worst," a government source said. "It only takes a small number to incite the drunken masses to violence, as previous experience has shown."

But NCIS said it was too early to tell whether any "nasties" were going. "We have our eye on a number of groups of people."

Steps are also being taken to ensure that people with criminal records do not get hold of tickets for the game. A number who lied about their previous convictions have already been picked up.

Police will also use new powers to stop thugs from leaving the country, blocking ports and airports if necessary. New police powers mean potential trouble-makers can be held at exit points while the police apply to magistrates for an immediate order stopping them from leaving the country.

A team of "spotters", trained to identify known hooligans, will be out in Germany to pin-point trouble-makers.

"This is the biggest UK police operation ever mounted for an England match abroad," an NCIS source said.

Another worry, however, is first time offenders. "There are people who turn up and fight who have never been on our databases, as Euro 2000 showed. We don't know what kind of effect that is going to have on the England-Germany game until that has gone by," an NCIS source said.

"It is obviously a high risk game. It has been ever since the draw was made because there are certain known factors about the fixture. It is a high-stakes qualifying match. Both England and Germany love their football.

"England and Germany both have a domestic hooligan problem and a travelling, international hooligan problem. Both countries have a beer-drinking culture. It is comparatively cheap to get there and tickets are in incredibly short supply."

The final factor is that the game is taking place on the 62nd anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, a fact not expected to be lost on fans looking for trouble.

"It is one we have got to be particularly careful of," the NCIS source said. "There is a long-standing enmity between England and Germany and not for just football reasons. Football latches on to these historical stories. Some of these people actually think they are fighting for their country."