Football hooligans warned to hand in passports ahead of Euro 2016

Almost 2,000 known troublemakers will be prevented from travelling to France

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Picture by: Michel Euler / AP/Press Association Images

Almost 2,000 known troublemakers will be prevented from travelling to France in the coming weeks, as UK and French authorities attempt to reduce the risk of violence at Euro 2016.

Police forces across the United Kingdom have written to 1,927 supporters with football match banning orders urging them to hand in their passports.

If the banned fans do not comply within the next couple of weeks they risk prosecution.

A major operation will also be launched at 27 UK ports and airports a few days before the tournament to try to spot known troublemakers who attempt to travel.

UK police have been working closely with their French colleagues ahead of the competition, which takes place from 10 June to 10 July, to try to mitigate the risk of fan violence.

Dozens of British police will travel to the various host cities to help act as liaison officers and intelligence gatherers.

The French authorities have serious concerns, not just about the potential of fan-related violence, but also about the risk to the tournament from terrorism.

France faced two major terrorist attacks last year and intelligence agencies believe there is a real risk that IS-inspired attacks could target stadiums and other crowded places, such as the special fan parks the French authorities are setting up to cater for the many thousands of ticketless fans expected to travel to the tournament.
Up to 500,000 British football fans, about half of whom do not have tickets, are expected to head to France for the event.

Potential flashpoints include the England versus Wales game in Lens, and England's fixture against Russia in Marseilles - a city that saw ugly clashes between home supporters and riot police in the 1998 World Cup.

The British police who will be in France are hoping to act as "cultural interpreters" to prevent heavy-handed tactics against drunk and rowdy fans who may not cause serious trouble.

French authorities have already told English and Welsh fans without tickets not to travel to Lens, and there will be an alcohol ban in the city centre for 24 hours from 6am on match day.

Assistant chief constable Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing, warned that the banning orders are no guarantee against trouble.

He said: "Some of the people who have drunk to excess and behaved in an anti-social manner are not known to the police. They are not people who we have on the periphery or the radar as saying these people will cause trouble at football. They don't have previous convictions sometimes in any matter, let alone football.

"We've got to be aware that even if you have a banning order operation, that doesn't entirely guarantee that you won't have problems. And if we have up to 500,000 people travelling, it being summer they will no doubt drink, they will be in large groups, and we need to be aware that there may be potential trouble."

The tournament is being carried out amid a severe terror threat, and French authorities have extended a state of emergency until the end of the event.

Roberts said fans need to be aware that they will see military at transport hubs and paramilitary-style police.

"For the French it's going to be a massive security operation. It was described to us yesterday as an extraordinary scale of operation," he said.

"We've got to accept that France has got its own policing style, it's a different country, so it's really for our supporters to be aware of that and to be respectful of the country that they're in and allow the French police to concentrate on keeping them safe."