Football: French police prepared to arrest and prosecute tickets tout at the World Cup

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The Independent Online
French police will arrest anyone engaged in large-scale touting of tickets outside stadiums during the World Cup, the tournament organisers said yesterday.

The head of World Cup security, Dominique Spinosi, said the resale of tickets for a profit was against the law in France. Anyone identified by police trafficking in tickets would be arrested and prosecuted.

She was speaking after a one-day conference between English, Scottish and French football and security officials on arrangements for curbing hooliganism during France '98. Both sides denied that the small number of tickets allocated directly to foreign fans - potentially less than 10 per cent of the seats per game per country - would be the biggest single security headache during the June tournament.

"Unfortunately, most of the stadiums are quite small in France. But the problem is the same for French fans," Spinosi said.

The Football Association's security officer, Sir Brian Hayes, confirmed, however, that England had written to Fifa requesting that allocations for the three first-phase games - against Romania, Tunisia and Colombia - should be increased in England's favour. England will receive less than 4,000 tickets for the game against Colombia on 26 June in Lens - thousands of miles from Colombia, but only 50 miles from the Channel.

Georges Querry, Inspector General of the French police, said that emergency judicial procedures would be used against troublemakers from Britain and elsewhere. They could be sent before judges, sitting up to 24 hours a day, and, if convicted, jailed or deported.

However, the Football Supporters' Association is worried that English fans could become victims of summary justice.

"This concerns us greatly. Starting court cases so quickly does not allow people to conduct a proper defence," Shiela Spiers, the vice-chairman of the FSA, said. "They should have the time to speak to British representatives and lawyers first.

"We have seen far too many examples in the past of English fans being wrongly accused and we don't want supporters to be the victims of summary justice."

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