English and Turkish officials did their level best yesterday to persuade European football's governing body that no renegade English fans will be able to make their way to Istanbul for 11 October's critical Euro 2004 qualifier.
The game, for which the Football Association has declined its allocation of 3,000 tickets, may still be 15 days away but such is the sensitivity surrounding the potentially volatile fixture that both associations were summoned to Uefa's headquarters here for unprecedented security talks.
Uefa has warned England that they will be thrown out of next year's finals if their riotous minority of travelling fans continue to cause havoc. What emerged from yesterday's two hours of talks is that any English fans planning to attend the decisive qualifier will face an unprecedented ring of steel. Anyone managing to break through a triple police cordon around the stadium will be thrown into distinctly unfriendly security cells.
Spot checks will be made at Istanbul airport with any suspected England fans put on planes returning home. Any penetrating the border controls and acquiring tickets will face unprecedented security in and around the Fenerbahce stadium on the day of the game, with only fans showing Turkish identity cards being allowed in. "Even if three or four people get into the stadium, we will recognise them and the police will take them out," the Turkish FA's president, Haluk Ulusoy, said. "I don't believe any will be able to get in."
Ulusoy said Turkey was backing the FA's decision not to take up England's ticket allocation. "I personally like English people but for this game alone there is a request from the English side to take special measures," he said. "We are not happy with this but we are supporting the initiative because it is designed to avoid hooliganism."
Uefa's chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, said: "The secure staging of this game is of the utmost importance to the two federations as well as to European football." The FA chairman, Geoff Thompson, said he was satisfied all possible measures would be in place. "Rivalry on the pitch needn't result in violence off it," Thompson said. "The players have been told of their responsibilities and are fully aware that incidents on the field of play can affect attitudes off it."
Such is the sensitivity surrounding the match, the FA is not even allowing the players' families to obtain tickets. The same restrictions will apply to commercial partners.
Sky TV yesterday agreed, following a plea from the sports minister, Richard Caborn, to allow a terrestrial channel to show a delayed "as live" transmission of the match as "a one-off (arrangement) for a particularly sensitive match".
TURKEY'S RING OF STEEL
* England fans face being turned back at either British or Istanbul airports
* If they do manage to get through, they face three police cordons around the Sukru Saracoglu stadium
* All fans will be asked to produce Turkish identity cards
* Anyone identified as an England supporter will be detained in "secure holding areas" for the duration of the match
* A list and pictures of those 1,800 England fans banned from travelling will be sent to the Turkish authoritiesReuse content