England and Russia warned repeat of violence will result in Euros ban
The chief executive of the English Football Association last night pleaded with England fans not to get the team expelled from the European Championship after Uefa threatened it with the ultimate sanction over the vicious violence that has wrecked the start of the tournament.
Martin Glenn was treating with the “utmost seriousness” the direst of warnings from European football’s governing body that a repeat of the sickening scenes which marred England’s Group B opener against Russia would see England ejected from Euro 2016.
Uefa made the threat amid mounting fears that Saturday’s bloody battles in Marseille, which left one English fan fighting for his life and five others seriously injured, could resume ahead of England’s second group match against Wales in Lens and Russia’s against Slovakia in nearby Lille.
Russia was also facing expulsion for the actions of its so-called ‘ultras’, who ambushed England supporters in the centre of Marseille before attacking them again at the end of the teams’ 1-1 draw at the Stade Velodrome.
The latter brought a Uefa charge, as did a far-right banner displayed in the stadium and flares that were set off and even fired at England fans, for which the Russian Football Union can expect severe sanctions following similar behaviour by its supporters at Euro 2012.
England escaped formal charges but a letter from Uefa to the FA left Mr Glenn in no doubt what could happen if a minority of the country’s followers continue to cause trouble in Lille, Lens or beyond.
“We take this letter from Uefa with the utmost seriousness,” said Mr Glenn. “We understand the potential implications of our supporters’ actions and wholly accept that every effort needs to be made by the FA to positively urge them to act in a responsible and respectful way.
“Violent scenes like those witnessed over the weekend in Marseille have no place in football, nor society as a whole.
“What the FA would say to England fans is, ‘Look, support your team, respect the locals where you are staying but the best way to support the England team is to have a drink, sing a song but be respectful.’”
Mr Glenn was speaking before the French government reacted to the trouble of recent days by imposing a blanket ban on alcohol near all Euro 2016 venues. That announcement came as violence broke out ahead of Germany’s opener against Ukraine. Northern Ireland’s tournament debut against Poland was also impacted.
The local authority in Lens had already imposed an embargo on match-day street drinking, something which prompted UK police to urge ticketless England and Wales fans to stay away from the city and instead enjoy the match in Lille. However, that is where Russia play Slovakia the previous day and the lead for England’s football policing, Mark Roberts, last night warned British supporters that the Russian fans would be lying in wait, ready to use “extreme violence”.
He said the trouble in Marseille had exceeded his “worst-case scenario” and he and the British Government both offered to provide additional officers to police England’s remaining matches amid almost universal criticism of the French authorities for failing to do more to protect innocent fans in Marseille.
The chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation, Kevin Miles, said: “The first responsibility of a police force at a tournament is to guarantee the safety of people coming to watch it and they singularly failed to do that.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)