Scuffles and arrests mar Paris friendly

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Up to 17 English football fans were in custody in Paris yesterday following a series of scuffles in the run-up to last night's game with France. The match, which ended in a creditable 1-1 draw, comes five days after the introduction of legislation which stops suspected hooligans travelling abroad.

Up to 17 English football fans were in custody in Paris yesterday following a series of scuffles in the run-up to last night's game with France. The match, which ended in a creditable 1-1 draw, comes five days after the introduction of legislation which stops suspected hooligans travelling abroad.

The supporters were held for minor disturbances, mainly drunkenness, although there had been reports of overnight skirmishes between England fans and members of the city's large North African community outside city centre bars.

Fourteen people were held in the early hours of yesterday morning mainly for drunken disturbances near the Gare du Nord while three more were held in connection with the vandalising of a car. In the Place de Clichy area, English fans chanted "no surrender to the IRA" into the early hours.

Trouble flared again on Saturday afternoon and riot police were forced to contain gangs of English supporters and local North Africans outside the Gare du Nord. Missiles were thrown and there were skirmishes, although it appeared no one was seriously hurt.

Police formed a human barrier around a group of the most boisterous of the English fans to stop problems escalating. Throughout the afternoon English fans, who had been chanting noisily but peacefully, had been provoked by local North Africans. Around 400 supporters were gathered at three bars close to the station.

A spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) said the arrests followed a number of separate incidents across the city. "The trouble was minor and there appear to have been no major disturbances so far," he said, adding that all of those arrested would remain in custody until 11pm yesterday when they would be deported.

More than 20 people have been banned from going to the fixture under a new law rushed through Parliament which came into force last week after violence at Euro 2000. Two Brighton fans were banned on Friday from all football matches for two years and a man from Swindon was given a similar ban on Wednesday. Another 21 supporters were told to surrender their passports as a condition of bail when their cases were adjourned.

The NCIS spokesman said it was impossible to judge the success of the legislation on one match and said the real test would come next March when England play the Germans away in a World Cup qualifier. But he said the relative lack of trouble in the run up to yesterday's friendly was encouraging.

French police had stepped up their presence at sea and airports prior to the match, mindful of the trouble that surrounded English fans in Belgium during this summer's Euro 2000 tournament.

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