Police out in force to combat National Front fears

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The Independent Online

Extra police are being sent to combat potential right-wing trouble-makers at Headingley for England's one-day game against Pakistan today. The reinforcements have been deployed following a successful police action against National Front members who intended to disrupt the Second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford.

Yorkshire expect a sell-out crowd of 16,000, and they have been assured the match will be well policed. Yesterday, a West Yorkshire police spokesperson said: "The match is a high-profile event and extra police will be drafted in to make sure everything runs smoothly so everyone can enjoy the day."

These bland words belie a history of police intelligence aimed at National Front members. Every winter, chief executives of Test grounds meet regional chief constables to discuss strategy, but today's policing will benefit from the Greater Manchester force's Old Trafford experience. "It was pretty well a military operation," said Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's chief executive.

Cumbes was told by local police that there was a threat of trouble at the Second Test, which began on 31 May. Against a background of riots in Oldham a few miles from Old Trafford, and the National Front election campaign in the area, police had detected a threat of racist-inspired trouble at the Test. "We were told we had to be very, very wary," Cumbes said. A right-wing website had announced that Old Trafford was the place to be.

The police operation concentrated on stopping known trouble-makers from breaching a perimeter surrounding the ground. Some had travelled from the Midlands and the South, and their links were with football. Any National Front trouble-makers who made it to the turnstiles and were recognised were informed that they would be under constant surveillance. Some turned away voluntarily; they had not come for the cricket. About a dozen trouble-makers were foiled by the police operation.

Police numbers inside the ground were not increased, and no serious racial incidents were reported. The operation was a success because no one outside Cumbes' senior staff knew it had taken place. "We wanted to be able to reassure the Asian population that they had nothing to fear," Cumbes said. "The sole objective was no trouble, and the Greater Manchester police did a terrific job for us." Experienced stewards from Old Trafford have been drafted in to help colleagues at Headingley today.

No threat was expected at the Riverside Ground for Pakistan's game against Australia yesterday despite forecasts that there would be 1,000 Pakistanis in the 12,000 crowd. Police believed the National Front had decided to give Chester-le-Street a miss. Had they turned up, all they would have done was getvery wet.