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Brazil hoping to phase out policing in stadiums

An aerial view of Arena Sao Paulo stadium, known as "Itaquerao", which will host the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Sao Paulo Mar
An aerial view of Arena Sao Paulo stadium, known as "Itaquerao", which will host the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Sao Paulo Mar

By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Brazil is hoping next year's World Cup will help the country move away from its standard practice of using riot police to keep order inside stadiums, the head of the local organising committee said on Friday.

As host, Brazil is obliged by FIFA rules to use stewards to keep fans under control, with police on standby in case of serious trouble, and committee CEO Ricardo Trade said the South American nation was pushing to make this a permanent change.

"We want to have stewards inside the stadium as other countries are doing," Trade told Reuters on the sidelines of a Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) event in Madrid.

"It's obligatory to do this at the World Cup and maybe we could keep this system afterwards," he added. "The police will be there inside the stadium, but not with a thousand men.

"We will have a thousand stewards and maybe 100 policemen to react if there is some sort of crime."

Riot police have been a permanent fixture at Brazilian soccer matches since hooligan fans forced the government to clamp down in the 1980s.

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro set up a specially trained armed police unit in 1991 with mounted patrols outside the grounds that is being reformed for the World Cup.

Trade said his committee was working with the Brazilian soccer federation (CBF) and the government to create a new profession of stadium stewards that would allow police to focus on maintaining order outside.

"It's also better for them," he said.

"The problem is to give the opportunity to the police not to be inside the stadium but to be taking care of the streets, the metro stations and so on.

"And inside the stadium we would only have private security. We are not concerned about the police procedures we just need to have better control of the people inside.

"It's a system used in other countries that we must follow to make things better in Brazil."

The latest incident of violence came on Wednesday when Atletico Mineiro's 5-2 victory over Arsenal in the Libertadores Cup was marred by fighting between members of the Argentine team and Brazilian military police at the end of the match.

Officers were quick to use force to control the angry Arsenal players, who had confronted the match officials at the final whistle, including pointing guns at them.

Brazil will have a chance to test the move towards using stewards when it hosts the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the main event next year, in June.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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