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Thursday, November 29, 2007
Special EU police force planned for sport

BRUSSELS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The European Union's justice chief proposed on Thursday the formation of a special pan-European police force to tackle soccer-related violence.

'What I have in mind is to build specialised European units ready to intervene at short notice in case of need and ready to participate in cooperation on the occasion of international sports events,' EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said.

'This is, I would say, a step forward towards the creation one day of a true European police for sport,' he told reporters.

Frattini made the announcement alongside UEFA President Michel Platini following the first high-level meeting of EU government officials, the European Commission, police chiefs, supporters and sports bodies.

Earlier this year, Platini -- European soccer's top official -- had called for the creation of an international force to tackle the growing problem of hooliganism as well as corruption, money-laundering and illegal gambling.

'When I came to Brussels to meet the European Commission president, Commissioner Frattini jumped on this idea and I thank him for making it happen,' Platini said.

'Football, as I have said before, cannot deal with this problem alone. We need the political will from all EU countries to combat this problem.'

Thursday's meeting was organised in response to the recent rise in soccer-related violence which culminated in two fatal shootings in Italy this year.

'These dramas moved things forward,' Platini said. 'I have the feeling that other countries which haven't been through such dramas must prepare for them and not wait for new ones to occur.'

Under Frattini's proposals, a new specially trained unit will be set up within Europol, the EU-wide police force, to deal with sports violence and could be in place in time for Euro 2008 which takes place next summer in Austria and Switzerland.

'The way Europol has been set up, this can happen very quickly, in fact, and could be in place in time, or at least in some form by next summer,' Frattini said.

The new force will be funded by the EU and will require the approval of the bloc's 27 member states.

'For Euro 2008, we are spending up to 35 million euros ($51.83 million) on security and I think we could use this money for soccer fields, basketball courts, handball courts, for footballs, for football shoes for everyone,' Platini said.

The former French international has also sought greater punishments for offenders, including a travel ban for persistent offenders.

'We must act to protect sport and give judges the means to enforce the law,' Platini said.

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