Uefa allays English fears

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The Independent Online
Uefa gave the clearest indication yesterday that Euro '96 would go ahead in England without fences.

The shameful scenes in Dublin last week sparked fears that, at best, fans at next year's European Championship finals might have to be caged in, and at worst that the finals would be scrapped in England altogether.

Europe's governing body meet in Geneva next month to study reports after England's game with the Republic of Ireland was abandoned after 27 minutes because of a riot in the stands. However, Ernie Walker, the chairman of Uefa's stadia committee, tried to allay those fears when he led a delegation to Liverpool's Anfield ground.

Anfield is one of the venues earmarked for the Championship and Walker said: "I can scarcely believe we would be here today if the championships were not to go ahead in England.

"We cannot let one incident spoil this. England is as well equipped to stage the championships as any country. There might be places in the world where fencing is needed - but not here. You certainly have the best grounds in the world, pound for pound, city for city."

Walker, the former Scottish Football Association secretary, and his Uefa safety team were at Anfield on the second stage of their journey assessing the progress of the stadiums hosting the championship matches.

The delegation were at Newcastle yesterday and will visit Manchester United this morning and Leeds in the afternoon. In the wake of last week's Dublin riot, just two people from those who have bought the 270,000 tickets so far sold for the European Championship finals have asked for their money back.

The technical experts organising the biggest ticketing operation ever seen in this country yesterday hit back at critics of the Football Association's strategy for the finals.

"It is not a touts' charter," insisted Paul Williamson, the account manager of Synchro Systems, who supply most of the computerised tickets at Premiership and many Endsleigh grounds.

To acquire a ticket for the later stages of the tournament, fans must buy tickets for at least three group matches, and the fear is the cost of that will fuel a black market.

"Fans who have saved up, or paid 18 months in advance, are the sort of people who will want to go to the games,'' Williamson said. "They will be pleased to have their tickets and proud to be part of the tournament.

"We are trying to make sure people who go to the later stages are those who have supported the tournament all the way through, the genuine football fans.

Tickets, which will not be distributed until May 1996 to cut down on touting and forgery, will have the name of the buyer on them.