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Game on for scam pupils

Hundreds of schoolchildren denied the chance of seeing a World Cup game this week by an international ticket scam could soon be cheering on England at the quarter-finals.

Police in Britain and Germany are investigating the fraud that left school trip operator Activ4 without the tickets it had promised 350 children and 31 teachers and parents.

Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, football's world governing body, announced that 350 tickets would be given to the children for quarter-final games on June 30 or July 1, which could include England. A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said private sponsors would cover the cost of the rest of the trip.

James Collins, head of PE at Mayville independent high school in Portsmouth, said 23 boys aged 11 to 16 were on the original trip, along with three teachers. The children paid pound;410 for the weekend trip, including Pounds 125 for the World Cup ticket.

He said the boys were devastated when he broke the news at the school's hostel in Cologne on Saturday morning that they would not be seeing Portugal play Iran.

"There was not a word out of them for five minutes," he said. "They had been looking forward to this since September."

Linda Owens, Mayville head, said: "It's fantastic news. The boys' dreams are coming true after all."

Three other schools known to have suffered the same fate are North Bromsgrove high school in Worcestershire, Porchester secondary in Bournemouth, and Drayton secondary in Banbury.

Richard Sutton, head of Drayton, said the 11 children from his school who went to Germany had coped incredibly well with their disappointment and deserved the opportunity to see a quarter final match.

Shrewsbury-based Activ4 said in a rrecent statement that it had been the victim of an international ticket scam.

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