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The British bobby pounds a South African beat

Fans arriving for England's first match of the World Cup against the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday night will see British police in traditional helmets mingling with the crowds, reports The Times. But the six uniformed officers - unarmed, unlike the South African force - will be the most visible sign of a complex policing operation designed to prevent trouble and help to protect England fans.

A team of 12 officers will be stationed in South Africa while England remain in the tournament, divided into uniformed officers to patrol the crowds and plain clothes officers who will act as spotters, looking for trouble so it can be stopped before it starts.

At the police command headquarters in Rustenburg, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt said, "We have worked very hard at making sure people have a realistic understanding about what England fans are like these days."

Holt, head of football for the Association of Chief Police Officers, added, "There has been a wholesale change. The chances of organised disorder happening in South Africa are very limited indeed. Organised football violence will not be a problem.

"We have no powers and in South Africa there is a different culture and a different way of policing. I want to do everything to make sure the South African actions are proportionate and necessary. We have a great relationship and they have modified their plans as a result of what we have said."

The Crown Prosecution Service has also sent an officer so that any fans convicted can be subject to banning orders. About 25 were issued at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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