Saturday 3 December 2016

Complacency has let the spectre of hooliganism return

Mark Ogden

Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30

Saturday's events were a classic example of cause and effect, and Uefa's organisation, both before and during England's encounter with Russia, contributed to the scenes. Photo: Peter Jordan/PA Wire
Saturday's events were a classic example of cause and effect, and Uefa's organisation, both before and during England's encounter with Russia, contributed to the scenes. Photo: Peter Jordan/PA Wire

Sunday morning in Marseille's Port and the street cleaners are out, disinfecting the streets and attempting to clear the shards of glass that generate the unmistakeable backdrop of crunching underfoot.

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At the Stade Velodrome, the carnage of the night before is still being assessed, with damaged seating in the section populated by Russian and English supporters only telling a fraction of the story of the worst outbreak of football violence in a stadium at a major tournament in recent memory.

Uefa has been swift to condemn the hooliganism. But it cannot escape criticism for the scenes that have stained Euro 2016. No administrator can be accused of sparking the trouble that flared in the Vieux Port on Friday and Saturday - the idiots at the centre of fighting only have themselves to blame. But Saturday's events were a classic example of cause and effect, and Uefa's organisation, both before and during England's encounter with Russia, contributed to the scenes.

Where were the police inside the stadium? Why was the segregation so inadequate?

World Cups and European Championships have become such sanitised, middle-class events that the old disease of football hooliganism appeared to have been consigned to history. But complacency has set in and the price was paid in full in France's tinderbox Mediterranean port city.

The argument that the fixture should have been switched from Marseille because of historical tensions does not hold water. As one of Euro 2016's biggest stadiums, Stade Velodrome was perfectly suited to hosting the game. It was Uefa and Marseille's job to ensure the city was ready for the game.

The events of the weekend should now act as an alarm call. In France, there are clear issues looming in the group stages, with certain fixtures likely to prompt security concerns.

Marseille must host France-Albania and Poland-Ukraine - two fixtures with potential to generate trouble, while England's encounter with Wales in Lens is another that carries all kinds of risk. What will happen on Wednesday, when Russia faces Slovakia in Lille - a city likely to be the base for thousands of English and Welsh fans? Is enough being done on the security front to nullify the threat posed by these fixtures and, after the mistakes of Marseille, will Uefa abandon its policy of encouraging police to stay out of stadiums and accept that a visible show of authority can act as a deterrent?

Steps will clearly be taken, however, and ­Marseille feels like a fork in the road, the game-changer that forces football to address some old problems. (© Independent News Service)

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