HC Deb 11 February 1982 vol 17 cc462-3W
Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will report on his recent meeting with the football authorities about the World Cup.

Mr. Macfarlane

I met the home football authorities on 1 December last to discuss the World Cup in Spain, in particular the possibility of its being marred by acts of hooliganism by a small minority of so-called British supporters such as those experienced in recent years in Norway, Switzerland and Italy. Both the Government and football authorities are deeply concerned about the effect this misbehaviour has on the British reputation abroad and on the good name of football. We are united in our determination to do what we can to eliminate or reduce such misbehaviour during the World Cup.

At the December meeting I formed a liaison group comprising officials from my Department and the FCO, the secretaries of the English, Scottish and Northern Ireland football associations and as an ex-officio, a representative of Sportsworld Travel Ltd., the agency in Britain selling tickets for World Cup matches. It is the task of this group to look at ways and means of ensuring, as far as is practicable, the good behaviour of British fans, both inside and outside Spanish stadia. The group has met in England and at the British embassy in Madrid, and will meet again next month.

A leaflet has been agreed which lists a series of do's and dont's for supporters visiting Spain. This leaflet will be widely publicised in travel brochures, major domestic football match programmes, and all departure points. Officials from the group have discussed all aspects of the problem with Spanish authorities in Madrid and locally in Bilbao, Malaga, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza where the three British teams will play their first phase matches. The consular staff in Spain will be increased by 30 per cent. in expectation of a heavier workload than normal.

This action has been greatly appreciated by the Spanish Government, a point made to me during my short visit to Spain last week when I met the Spanish Minister for Culture and her Secretary of State for Sport. I was anxious to find out how the Spanish Government saw the situation, and what more we could do to help. Further visits will be made by my officials including the forthcoming Scotland versus Spain match at Valencia on 24 February.

Officials of Government Departments responsible for air, sea and coach travel abroad are considering what needs to be done to ensure trouble-free travel to and from Spain. Co-operation from all sides is excellent.