Pubdate: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 Source: Belfast Telegraph (UK) Copyright: 2000 Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd. Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/
`CANNABIS IS SECRET TO TROUBLE-FREE SOCCER FANS'
DUTCH police today revealed the secret behind England's trouble-free opening Euro 2000 match against Portugal - openly-available cannabis.
Despite the fallout between some England fans and players after the 3-2 defeat in Eindhoven, there were no reports of any trouble outside the ground.
Police claimed that the availability of the drug in the Netherlands probably helped to defuse any violence among thugs normally found in a boozy rage.
England's next match, against Germany on Saturday, is likely to provide a sterner test for the authorities as it takes place in Charleroi in Belgium - where drug laws are much tighter.
Some 40,000 England fans are expected for the game - which England must win to have a hope of advancing in the tournament - 10 times the number allocated tickets.
Meanwhile, discussions were taking place with UEFA today about player security at the championships following the obscene gesture by David Beckham at fans who hurled abuse after the Portugal game.
Football Association executive director David Davies said: "Our security people are well aware of what went on. We will be talking to UEFA about that. There is an issue, we believe, with regard to the perspex tunnel."
Beckham was pictured giving a "one-finger salute" to England fans who hurled obscene taunts at him as he walked off the pitch in Eindhoven. The taunts were reported to have included insults about Beckham's wife and son.
Coach Kevin Keegan said he was present during the incident adding: "I heard the abuse and I was ashamed.
He said: "If you had have been in the tunnel and heard what I heard ... I just couldn't believe it."Keegan was at pains to make it clear that the trouble had come from "eight to 10" apparently drunken people rather than the thousands of other England fans.
Tory shadow attorney general Edward Garnier branded the Manchester United star's action "unacceptable", no matter how much he was provoked.
Mr Garnier, MP for Harborough, said: "It sets a bad example to younger footballers and lowers the standards of behaviour."