World Cup 2018: England fans warned on punishments but police confident of safety

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England fans face severe sanctions if they cause trouble in Russia

Unruly England supporters did a "disservice" to genuine fans with their behaviour in Amsterdam in March, says football policing lead Mark Roberts.

More than 100 fans were arrested when England played the Netherlands in a friendly and English police have since had to reassure authorities only "genuine fans" will go to the World Cup in Russia this summer.

"It's a challenge for us to try to explain to foreign police these aren't the typical fans," Roberts told BBC Sports editor Dan Roan.

Deputy Chief Constable Roberts also warned acts of disorder will carry "severe" sentences in Russia.

"Don't assume an offence will be dealt with like in the UK," he said. "The punishments could be far more severe."

Roberts is the National Police Chiefs' Council football policing lead on preparations for a World Cup which has been under scrutiny amid fears of hooliganism and violence.

He is "confident" the event can pass smoothly but pointed to potential sentences, with ticket touting punishable by a £20,000 fine and acts of disorder carrying sentences of eight to 15 years in a Russian prison.

"You wouldn't want to be labelled as an English football hooligan in a Russian prison," Roberts said.

Roberts added that English police tasked with ensuring the safety of fans have not seen their relationship with their Russian counterparts damaged by political strains between the two countries.

He feels Russian authorities have provided assurances a "safe" tournament will play out but feels a "section" of England fans who caused trouble prior to the friendly win in Netherlands have not helped.

England's final group game against Belgium in Kaliningrad was raised as a potential problem by Roberts due to its close proximity to the Polish border.

He warned fans will not simply be able to cross border security during the tournament and also asked fans going to Russia to be sensitive when erecting flags, asking them not to place them on monuments.

"We have often said we wouldn't expect people to come here, get drunk and put their flags on the Cenotaph," he added.

"We have to be aware that Russia had significant losses during the war and there are massive sensitivities. Putting a flag somewhere that you may not see as an issue can cause great offence.

"That's something we can do without as it increases the threat to individuals.

"One thing supporters need to do when they go is be a good guest, behave themselves. If they go and ingratiate themselves to the locals then we can be confident it should pass without incident."

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