Football: France details World Cup security strategy

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France will deploy about 6,000 police and several hundred soldiers to maintain security and prevent terrorist attacks during this year's World Cup, the French interior minister announced yesterday.

"We are managing a crowd phenomenon. These are phenomena which are difficult to control, and excesses are possible," Jean-Pierre Chevenement said. "As a result, we will take the necessary measures."

More than two million people, including hundreds of thousands of fans from across Europe, are expected to attend the 64 games at this year's World Cup in June and July at 10 different stadiums across France.

French authorities are being especially vigilant about potential disturbances and police forces across the Continent are already exchanging photographs of potential troublemakers in order to minimise the possibility of fighting between rival groups of fans.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 police will be on hand to ensure security during the 33 days of competition and at least 300 soldiers will help ensure safety as part of anti-terrorist measures already in effect. Special security checks of fans will take place before they enter the stadiums, and security officials will patrol public transport and parking areas.

Stadium rules forbid fans to take in any political banners, knives, bottles, glasses, metal boxes, rods, helmets, or alcohol. Anyone caught breaking these rules could face up to three years in jail and a maximum pounds 10,000 fine.

Chevenement announced that extra security measures could be taken for matches deemed "high risk", including one between Belgium and the Netherlands, where fans have clashed previously.

In addition to security provides by French authorities, private security officials will be allowed to help ensure safety inside stadiums, the minister said.

Bomb-sniffing dogs will also be in place at stadiums to help detect whether any suspicious packages are explosives.

Security measures will be tested during the inaugural match at the Stade de France on 28 January between France and Spain. Philippe Massoni, the police official responsible for Paris and the surrounding area, said that match represented the first test of the security measures that will be employed during the World Cup.

Chevenement also said a decision on what to do about the fences at two stadiums in Nantes and St-Etienne would be made soon.

Following the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough that killed 96 supporters, Fifa, the game's world governing body, has had a policy that perimeter fencing should be removed so that fans can run on to the field in an emergency.

Fifa strengthened that policy after another disaster at Guatemala in October 1996 when 78 fans were crushed to death in a stadium stampede.

But local authorities in Nantes and St-Etienne want to keep their fences, which have only recently been constructed.

l Matthias Sammer will decide in two months whether his career is to be brought to an end by a persistent knee problem, Borussia Dortmund said yesterday. The club denied a report which said Sammer would never play football again.

Sammer, whose career has been consistently undermined by injury, underwent surgery on his left knee for the fourth time in October, and a few days later a fifth operation was needed because of an infection.

The 1996 European Footballer of the Year, who has 51 caps for Germany, played in fewer than half of Dortmund's league matches last season.

The German national coach, Berti Vogts, has said that he will always leave the door open for the defender to make an international return.