FOOTBALL hooligans will have no place to hide during forthcoming big games.

Specialist officers will be on hand to keep football fans safe as they gear up for games in Essex this festive season.

The South Local Policing Area’s football policing unit now uses two high-definition digital video cameras after being given £1,000 in the summer from money seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Since August, officers have used the kit at big games in Essex and elsewhere.

PC Keith Baker, football field intelligence officer, said: "We bought the cameras as an extra tool to make sure everyone stays safe and has a good time and we have had a positive response from fans.

"The promotion of Southend United to League One means they have seen a growth in their crowds and they are now playing teams from across the country who bring a larger travelling support with them as well.

"The vast majority of these fans on both sides are well behaved but, as with any large gathering of people, there is always the possibility of some disorder occurring.

"The cameras have helped us identify the minority of troublemakers involved in football-related disorder at home and away matches and where necessary they will provide evidence to support applications for football banning orders.

"So far we have not needed to use any footage as evidence, as the cameras by themselves act as a deterrent, and there have only been a few isolated incidents of anti-social behaviour and disorder.”

Officers will be using the cameras at the Southend vs Colchester United game at the Weston Homes Stadium, Colchester, on Boxing Day, and the Southend vs Millwall match at home on December 28.

The North Local Policing Area’s football policing unit, which covers Braintree Town FC and Colchester United, also hopes to buy cameras next year.