European Union and UEFA to start crackdown on soccer violence

Soccer violence will be taken under control by the European Union and UEFA that are going to issue a joint Europe-wide crackdown on fans.

The EU's top justice official, Franco Frattini, said he would push the launch of new police teams to help curb fan violence at soccer events, even before next summer's European Championship in Switzerland and Austria.

"I am hoping that we can have a pilot project for training before Euro 2008, so that we can look at the results," Frattini said. "This is exactly the step toward the creation one day, of a true European police (force) for sports."

He said an initial 10 million EUR(US$14.8 million) was being set aside from the EU budget next year for the training plan as part of new joint initiatives proposed by EU and UEFA officials at a conference on violence in sport, which drew 150 police and sport experts from across the continent.

"We have to cooperate, we have to play a team game, we have to eradicate violence, the spirit of violence and even the association of ... racism, and xenophobia with the world of sport," Frattini said. "Fighting it requires cooperation."

Frattini and Portuguese Interior Minister Rui Pereira also presented plans already being worked on by EU experts to set up common Europe-wide standards on safety and security for sporting events. The measures include travel bans on blacklisted hooligans, joint EU police teams working at stadiums, and new financial aid from the EU for training police and coaching fans to prevent violence.

Frattini also called for a permanent committee be set up between Europe's top clubs to coordinate and share best practices on security issues.

"People feel unsafe and so we need a fast and effective response," Pereira said.

The increased efforts come just weeks after a Lazio fan was shot to death by police in Italy, sparking riots in Rome and other Italian cities. More than 20 rioters were arrested in the aftermath of the shooting.

Racist chants have also been heard at several European cup games this year, and UEFA President Michel Platini has been pushing EU officials for months to step up measures to counter the recent rise in violence in and around soccer stadiums.

"UEFA does not have the power to draw up a list of people banned from stadiums. Nor has it the power to arrest and give prison terms to racists and extremists present inside and outside stadiums," Platini said. "It is the public authorities who have this power and responsibility."

He said the 35 million EUR(US$51.6 million) that was spent on security during Euro 2004 in Portugal could be better spent on education and skills programs for children and developing players.

Platini said clubs would be open to help pay for multinational police teams in and around stadiums, but said UEFA would rather concentrate on things it has powers over, such as ensuring that coaches and players follow fair play rules.

"We will punish and we do punish people who do create a bad climate in this sport," Platini said.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova