British Float Plan to License Soccer Fans

Associated Press

The government today unveiled plans for a mandatory computerized membership program aimed at cracking down on violence by English soccer fans.

If enacted, the program--the first of its kind in Europe--would force anyone wanting to attend a soccer match at any of 92 stadiums in England and Wales to buy a plastic membership card and pass a computer scan of their background. The card would cost less than $10 and could be used for an entire season at any stadium.

Critics immediately condemned the multimillion-dollar proposal, saying it would drive away spectators and do little to cut down on thuggery outside stadiums.

“We feel the scheme as envisaged will create new problems in the handling of spectators and is going to be adverse, in the long term, to football,” said Graham Kelly, a top official of the Football Assn., soccer’s governing body in England.


‘Disgraceful and Dangerous’

A spokesman for the opposition Labor Party said the program would violate civil liberties and be “disgraceful and dangerous.”

The plan, which must be approved by Parliament, was drawn up by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the wake of violence by English fans at last summer’s European Soccer Championships in West Germany.

At the core of the government’s proposal is a plastic membership card, about the size of a credit card, holding a person’s photograph and bits of personal information on a magnetic strip.


Anyone wanting to watch a match at a stadium in England or Wales would have to present his or her card at a computerized turnstile. The card would be passed through a scanner and, if the holder had a record of soccer-related violence, admission would be denied.

About 5 1/2 million fans would have to purchase the cards, it was estimated.

The cost of the package is high. The turnstiles, which would be linked to computers both at the stadium and at a central location, would cost about $26.25 million, and could slow down entry to stadiums, most of which were built in the 1920s and ‘30s and have limited access to begin with.