England team could be expelled if fans cause trouble

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The Independent Football

The Home Office warned yesterday that the England football team could be expelled from the European Championships in Portugal if travelling fans are involved in any serious disorder.

The Home Office warned yesterday that the England football team could be expelled from the European Championships in Portugal if travelling fans are involved in any serious disorder.

The Government and police have unveiled plans to prevent violence involving an estimated 50,000 England fans they expect to travel to the tournament, which starts in two weeks. Caroline Flint, a Home Office minister, said alcohol-related antisocial behaviour was almost inevitable, either from the travelling fans or the 200,000 UK nationals expected to be holidaying in Portugal during the three-week tournament.

But she said authorities were confident of preventing this from turning to "heartache". Restrictions on travel are the authorities' main weapon in trying to prevent a repeat of violence involving England fans which flared during Euro 2000 in the Netherlands and Belgium, and the 1998 World Cup in France.

Banning orders have been imposed on 2,188 known troublemakers, compared to 100 during the last European championships, and the total number of fans prohibited from travelling to Portugal is expected to rise to 2,700, including 500 suspected hooligans now on bail.

Police will start checks on sea ports and airports on 7 June, aided by immigration officials from Portugal who will decide whether an individual with a record for violent crime poses a threat. David Swift, the Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire and head of the British police team for Euro 2004, said the operation would concentrate on people with convictions for football-related violence.

Convicted hooligans were warned yesterday that they would be caught if they attempted to enter Portugal from airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland, or if they flew to Malaga in southern Spain to use that as a jumping-off point.

Mr Swift said police tactics in and around stadiums had been developed over the past year with their counterparts from Portugal and the Netherlands. The police operation will be "high-visibility" and "non-confrontational", aimed at removing individual offenders.

England's first match against France in Lisbon on 13 June is expected to attract 30,000 England fans. But police confirmed that there are greater concerns surrounding security at England's second match against Switzerland the following week in Coimbra, north of the capital.

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