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British officers at World Cup won’t be ‘morality police’

British police on duty at the World Cup will not act as the “morality police” when dealing with England and Wales fans in Qatar.

Chief constable Mark Roberts on Tuesday revealed a team of 15 supporter engagement officers will act as a “buffer” between England and Wales supporters and Qatari law enforcement.

They will be on hand to talk with fans if they believe “there’s a risk they may be overstepping the mark”.

But Roberts insisted they would only be focusing on fans who are “starting to draw a bit of attention”, and not on telling individuals whether they have drunk too much.

Around 3,000 to 4,000 England fans are expected to travel to Qatar for the group stages, with numbers set to increase if the Three Lions reach the knockout stages.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 Wales fans are also expected to fly out, while both sides could see their numbers in the stands bolstered by expats in the region.

“It’s a World Cup in a different part of the world with a very different culture, and I think one of my fears is that supporters not wishing to cause offence or cause problems may act in a way that inadvertently causes offence or draws attention,” Roberts told reporters.

“Equally there may be perceptions on the part of the Qatari police or the supporting Turkish police, or any of the other agencies, about what supporters are doing.

“Just because people are noisy, bouncing up and down and chanting in a different language does not mean they’re being aggressive.”

Unlike at most major tournaments, fans will not be able to buy beer and spend the day in a public square in Qatar.

Drinking alcohol will be in “relatively controlled” environments in either a hotel bar or a fan zone.

Supporters will not be allowed to remove their tops in celebration, Roberts warned.

A “significant” number of UK police officers will be on the ground acting as spotters to both gather information to feed back to the Qatari commanders and act as community officers to support fans.

Asked if those officers could be perceived as a “morality police”, Roberts said: “No is the simple answer. It’s not for us to judge whether what they are doing is right, wrong or indifferent

“We just want to look after the supporters and the last thing we want to do is for someone who doesn’t realise they’re causing offence to find themselves in a situation where they’re then engaging with one of the foreign police forces.

“So we’re not there to be morality police, we’re there to say to people: look, you’re starting to draw a bit of attention, calm it down, we don’t want you to come into contact with any other policing styles.”

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