More than 1,200 football hooligans have been barred from the World Cup after their passports were confiscated by the government.
The Football Banning Orders Authority - part of the Home Office - ordered 1,312 “troublemakers with a history of football-related disorder” to surrender their passports to police by June 5 to prevent them from flying to Russia for the tournament.
As of Wednesday, police forces in England and Wales had accounted for 1,254 passports – 96% of those belonging to fans currently subject to banning orders which stop them attending matches.
“Police will continue to root out the small number of outstanding passports throughout the tournament,” the Home Office said, adding that forces had carried out “enforcement action” against banned individuals who failed to surrender their documents.
— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) June 13, 2018
Police will hold the travel documents until the World Cup final on 15 July.
The World Cup starts Thursday with a match between the host country and Saudi Arabia. England’s first match is against Tunisia on 18 June, before they face Panama six days later.
Football-related arrests have fallen to an all-time low since the introduction of football banning orders in 2000, the Home Office said.
The orders are imposed by courts and can last for up to 10 years. Breaching the ban is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £5,000 and a six-month prison sentence.
In addition to the banning orders, police will be deployed at major UK ports during the World Cup to stop “known troublemakers” from travelling to Russia before and during the tournament, the Home Office said.
A UK policing delegation will also travel to Russia, at the host country’s request, to work with local police to ensure a “safe and trouble-free tournament for England fans”.
Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said the World Cup was “no place for violence or disorder” and credited the UK’s “unique” football banning orders for giving authorities the power to stop troublemakers from offending further.
“The UK’s system of football banning orders is unique and means that people intent on causing trouble in Russia will instead be staying at home,” he said.
“I’m grateful to police forces for taking the necessary enforcement action to ensure that these thugs won’t be able to ruin the tournament for real fans.”
Ahead of the tournament, much has been written about Russia’s infamous football hooligans, the Russian Ultras. The Ultras are known for their violence, something that shocked the world during the European Championship Final in Marseille two years ago.
The Express reported today that of 456 Russian football hooligans blacklisted from attending World Cup games, 104 had now been cleared for part of all of the World Cup.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the Commons last month that English football fans will have to rely on Russian “honour” to ensure their safety at the World Cup.
He told MPs: “It is up to the Russians. It is on their honour to guarantee the safety not just of British fans but of fans from around the world.”
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Lead for football policing, said over the past 30 years the UK had made “steady progress in eradicating the behaviour of those intent on engaging in football-related violence and disorder”.
Roberts also credited the effectiveness of the banning orders, saying the legislation used to enforce them “is the most effective of its kind, and affords us the ability to ensure the vast majority of England supporters travelling to Russia are genuine fans who simply want to enjoy the tournament”.
Around 10,000 people are expected to travel from the UK to Russia to attend the World Cup.
The England team arrived at St Petersburg airport on Tuesday and will be based in the nearby village of Repino, in north west Russia.
Meanwhile, Fifa announced on Wednesday that the 2026 World Cup will be held in the US, Mexico and Canada after the countries made a tri-nation bid.