French propose tough law on disorder

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(First Edition)

THE FRENCH government yesterday announced tough new legislation to counter the growing threat of football hooliganism.

Hooligans caught in the act of violence will face immediate trial and up to three years in prison, a government spokesman, Nicolas Sarkozy, said after a cabinet meeting, presenting a bill to combat violence in sports stadiums.

The measures include fines of up to 100,000 francs (pounds 12,000). 'The idea is to punish offences as quickly as possible,' Sarkozy said. 'We had to react strongly to prevent recent incidents recurring.'

The government is anxious to stamp out football hooliganism ahead of the 1998 World Cup in France.

Ten policemen were seriously hurt in violent clashes with Paris St Germain fans last August in the worst crowd violence seen in Europe this season.

Fans invaded the pitch during a league match in Marseille last month and fought pitched battles with the police.

Two league matches involving Marseille and Paris St Germain last weekend were declared high-risk games by French football authorities.

Ten people were wounded in August during violent clashes between police and supporters, said to be skinheads and neo-Nazi sympathisers, at a match between PSG and Caen. The Paris club's away matches have also been marked by violence and in July, 150 Paris supporters wrecked three cafes in Bordeaux.

The club has increased identity checks and video surveillance and is also aiming for better segregation of supporters.

Rolland Courbis, the coach of the French league leaders, Bordeaux, has been charged in Toulon with tax fraud. He was released after being accused of not declaring all of his earnings between 1987 and 1989 when he was the general manager of Toulon. Courbis, 40, already faces fraud charges following an investigation into Toulon's financial affairs during that period.

The affair is the latest blow to France's reputation, already tarnished by bribery allegations.