WARSAW, Mar 24 (Reuters) Polish and German police began joint exercises this week aimed at tightening security on fans travelling to the World Cup amid concerns that the group game between the countries may prove a flashpoint for trouble.
The Polish force's spokesman on World Cup affairs said today exercises were aimed at preparing police on either side of the border to prevent clashes between fans and would continue in the coming weeks.
German police are optimistic the World Cup will be spared major outbreaks of violence, but some fan associations and media have pointed to the Poland-Germany game on June 14 in Dortmund as a risk, particularly given limited police experience with fans travelling from East European.
''The main aim is to secure the safety of fans travelling from Poland and Ukraine,'' said Polish police spokesman Krzysztof Hajdas.
''We also have signs that foreign fans may choose to live in Poland and travel to games in Germany, simply because it is so cheap here. We have to consider how to deal with them too.'' This year's World Cup will be the first to draw tens of thousands of Poles, empowered by rising incomes and the proximity of the tournament.
Poland's ruling right promised to crack down on hooligans after a series of outbreaks of soccer-related violence during last year's election campaign, including a week-long riot in the small southern town of Mielec and a stabbing death this month.
German police also questioned around 100 German and Polish fans in November of last year, after they staged a mass brawl in the woods near the border, a possible prelude to this year's tournament.
About 600 Polish fans have bans which may prevent them travelling in June, five times less than English supporters.
''The number of bans is up to the courts rather than the football authorities or police,'' said Hajdas.
''But we have to put this in perspective. From 8,000 league games in Poland annually, we have a few dozen cases of fighting. The vast majority of fans are well-behaved and just want to normally support the team.'' Reuters PDS DB1841