English FA pledges to tackle hooliganism ahead of hearing

THE English FA have pledged to take a range of hard-hitting measures to stop the hooligan problems that have often blighted England on their travels from being transferred to home matches.

The FA face a UEFA hearing today into the ugly scenes at the Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in Sunderland, which could result in their next group game against Slovakia in June being played behind closed doors.

Although England captain David Beckham has admitted this step may reluctantly have to be taken to eradicate the problem, the FA insist it would be an over-reaction.

While revealing concern that “too large a minority” of England fans are causing trouble, they underlined their determination to take action themselves.

The FA, who would lose up to £2 million in potential revenue if no fans can attend the game in Middlesbrough, are already set to reject any tickets for the return fixture in Turkey in October in what they insist is a separate move.

However, they have also revealed that they plan to:

Ban for life any fan who invades the pitch, preventing them from watching any England games or other FA Cup matches;, such as the FA Cup final

Urge the courts to ensure all punishments for football-related offences are as severe as possible, by extending the system of restraining orders;

Ask the Government to encourage other countries to take court action against supporters arrested at away games;

Stamp out racist or political behaviour and chanting by fans, which is perceived by UEFA to include the booing of national anthems.

Take pro-active steps to change the ‘demographic make-up’ of fans who watch England, by encouraging more ethnic groups, as well as women and children, to attend games.

Extend their ongoing anti-racism campaign at future internationals.

Having included these points in their submission to UEFA, the FA will ask for an official warning, albeit accompanied by a large fine, rather than a ground closure for the game on June 11.

A one-match ground closure was the punishment applied to Slovakia for, ironically, the racist abuse of England players in Bratislava last October but the FA argue that Slovakia had previously received warnings from UEFA.

“Sunderland was an exceptional situation and we would hope our previous good record would count in our favour,” added Paul Barber, the FA’s head of marketing and communications.

“David Beckham is entitled to his opinion and has obviously thought it through carefully, but we don’t believe that’s the answer.

“It would be a very big and harsh step to take after no official warnings at all. The Slovakian FA said they are confident the English FA will organise the game better than they admit they did.”

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