Hooligans dent England's hopes for 2006
SIMON MACKLIN in London
England's hopes of hosting the World Cup in 2006 have been dealt a serious blow by their fans' position at the top of the hooligans' league.
Asked if the violence in France had scuppered Britain's chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: 'There is no point in denying it does not help.' Tom Pendry, chairman of the Football Trust, working on England's bid to host the World Cup, warned the violence could be a blow to opportunities to host international sporting events. 'It doesn't look good . . . these clashes risk hampering our bid,' he said.
The Mirror newspaper said a small army of thugs had shamed Britain, adding: 'What chance is there of England hosting the 2006 World Cup now? Very little.
'However well the team does on the pitch now, this tournament is tainted for England.' Tough new measures have been used to try to stop thugs already convicted of football violence from leaving the country to attend the tournament, and officials were yesterday looking at what else could be done.
Mr Blair was quick to condemn those responsible for the violence and offered French authorities full support in tracking down the culprits.
Teams of police 'spotters' have followed the fans to France to identify known troublemakers, and have the authority to arrest them and hand them over to French police.
'Our police have been very actively co-operating with the French and they are out there now on the streets in Marseilles. These are people who know the hooligans and they will be pointing them out to the French authorities,' a Home Office spokesman said.
British police officers from the National Criminal Intelligence Squad scrutinise crowds at British football matches using closed-circuit TV cameras, and send undercover officers to infiltrate hooligan gangs.
The spotter teams have been identifying themselves to fans in France so anyone planning violence knows they are being followed.
Police have also been given power to apply for court orders stopping convicted hooligans leaving Britain.