PARIS/LONDON: Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association chairman, has told UEFA formally of his “serious concerns” over security arrangements in Lille ahead of Thursday’s Euro 2016 clash with Wales in nearby Lens.
Dyke’s letter followed weekend violence on the streets and in the stadium in Marseille and handed the European federation a challenge of responsibility over the organisation and control of its flagship tournament.
In a letter emailed to Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s interim general secretary, Dyke condemned the “unacceptable” stewarding and “insufficient” crowd segregation in the one end of the Stade Velodrome.
UEFA’s refusal to act on warnings of trouble when the draw was made back in December have come back to scar the tournament. Not only were England and Russia matched together in Marseille but the teams play in neighbouring Lens and Lille, just 37 miles away, on Wednesday and Thursday.
Remarkably and worryingly, UEFA itself has suggested that England fans gather in “Russian territory” in Lille because Lens does not have the capacity or accommodation to cope even in ordinary circumstances.
Dyke said: “We understand there is to be an alcohol ban across the host cities and we would welcome this, particularly in Lille on Wednesday where many English fans have been asked to gather ahead of Thursday’s match against Wales in Lens.
“We have, following consultation with the authorities, advised our supporters without tickets for the match in Lens to congregate there, and whilst we will be working hard to positively influence their behaviour we have serious concerns around the security arrangements for the city in the next few days.
“These concerns are heightened with the knowledge that Russia will play in Lille on Wednesday afternoon.
“We know that UK Police authorities are stepping up their support on the ground, but we would urge you to bring the policing authorities in both Lille and Lens together as soon as possible to ensure there is a co-ordinated and effective plan in place.
“Again we are ready to play our part in these discussions.
“We are in regular contact with HM Government and their various law enforcement agencies to share what we can with them, and they in turn are co-operating very closely with their French counterparts and your tournament organisers.”
However Dyke, after conceding his abhorrence of Saturday’s scenes, then pointed up UEFA’s own failings.
He wrote: “The implication in your jointly-addressed letter is that English fans were in part responsible for the terrible incidents at the end of the match with Russia.
“This is contradicted both by the video evidence and by the fact your independent disciplinary bodies have only instigated sanctions against the Russian Football Union.
“The only blame apportioned in your letter for the event inside the stadium is to ‘so-called supporters’ when it could be suggested there were other factors involved.
“We believe the stewarding arrangements in place were unacceptable. Supporters were able to get in with fireworks and flares, and then let them off, and there was insufficient segregation between the Russian and English fans, particularly given the events of the previous two days.”
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