Dutch police issue warning to England fans

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The Independent Online

Dutch police involved in the biggest security operation their country has seen warned fans arriving yesterday for England's opening game in Euro 2000 that they will not tolerate any trouble.

Dutch police involved in the biggest security operation their country has seen warned fans arriving yesterday for England's opening game in Euro 2000 that they will not tolerate any trouble.

In Eindhoven, where England play Portugal tonight, police said they would be friendly but strict. "Clear borders will be set and if people go beyond that we will not be so friendly," said Jos Van Riet, general commander of the city's police force. After Belgian police showed their determination to act swiftly with hooligans when scuffles broke out in Brussels on Saturday night, he indicated that the Dutch police's approach would be equally firm.

"The festivity must be fun. Every single person who wants to spoil this party can count on a friendly but strict approach. This has been the motto for the police on the way to Euro 2000."

With up to 20,000 English fans expected to have arrived here by tonight - at least half without tickets - police said they were taking no chances. A total of 2,100 officers, including 84 dog handlers, will be on duty with a further 1,200 in reserve - about 50 per cent more than have been assigned for the Sweden-Italy game in the city in seven days' time. Fifty-five fire engines equipped with water cannon will be on standby, with 50 per cent more ambulances than normal.

The Mayor of Eindhoven,Rein Welschen, has the power to detain fans for up to 12 hours in two specially assigned sports halls "if the situation seems to warrant it. Detention of this kind can be used to defuse escalating tension between rival groups of supporters," said a spokesman. "The mayor does not need actual ground for suspicion that an offence has been committed."

The Netherlands has also amended a number of laws to grant local authorities more powers to deal with troublemakers. One - article 141 of the criminal code - allows police dealing with a group involved in a fight to treat the group as a single suspect, even if it is difficult to establish who was responsible. A "Festival Beer" of 2.5 per cent strength has been brewed to try to prevent fans getting excessively drunk.

Yesterday only a small number of England fans had arrived in Eindhoven - most choosing to stay in Amsterdam and travel down today. Many of those who had arrived were looking for tickets. "I have been offered one for £120 but I am here with two friends and we are trying to get three together," said Andrew Swift, a builder from Reading. "I will pay up to £200."

The authorities admittedyesterday it would be impossible to check the name printed on every ticket with the identity of the ticket holder. "There will be random checks," said a police spokesman, Johann Beelan.

Some reports said tickets were being offered for sale yesterday at £300. The official price of tickets available to supporters in the English Members Club are £17, £33 and £59.

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