Football: Belgian organisers fearful of English hooligans

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The Independent Online
UEFA HAS ruled out any change to the kick-off time for England's Euro 2000 match against Germany in June, despite fears of possible crowd trouble.

The tie in Charleroi on 17 June is due to start at 8.45pm local time, and Belgian organisers have already launched a security review. According to Charleroi's mayor it is "the match people are dreading". There are no flights out scheduled for after the match and local accommodation for the thousands of fans is limited.

The Football Supporters' Association admits to concerns over the possibility of trouble between rival fans and will visit Charleroi on a fact-finding mission. But Uefa, European football's governing body, insists the kick- off time cannot be changed and is confident its security arrangements will cope.

A Uefa spokeswoman said: "The draw is the draw and we are sticking to it. The kick-off time cannot be changed. All matches in the European Championship have the same risk and we are not making a special case for any of them."

Jacques van Gompel, the mayor of Charleroi, said: "We will have to review all our security measures. It's the match people are dreading. We will need extra assistance."

Alison Pilling, the FSA chairwoman, said her organisation will confront Uefa with any concerns. "There are issues we expect to raise with the authorities as soon as possible. Issues around travel and transport are always a problem at competitions and this will be raised as soon as we have had a look at the situation," she said.

Meanwhile, the England coach, Kevin Keegan, was yesterday starting an intensive search across Europe for top-class opposition to play at the end of May to ensure that England are well prepared for the Euro 2000 finals.

Keegan, who will enlist the help of the Belgian defender Philippe Albert, once of Newcastle United, as he makes painstaking preparations for next summer's finals, has a friendly against Brazil virtually confirmed at Wembley on 27 May. He must also find a smaller country or even a club side to provide a final warm-up on 3 June, with Malta - who have a vote on the 2006 World Cup host country - being a possibility.

However, after being drawn against Germany, Romania and Portugal in Sunday's group draw in Brussels, Keegan knows that his team need to face formidable European opposition on 31 May just before the tournament begins. "I want games against good opposition. The fact that we've got Argentina in February and Brazil is brilliant but we must also have a European side for the last game and that is really important now," Keegan said.

"The other teams will have been waiting for the draw as well and they'll quite fancy playing us. We would prefer it to be at Wembley but it doesn't have to be." The Netherlands, the co-hosts of the finals, are among the possible opponents.