KEIR RADNEDGE in MARSEILLE: Russia risks sanctions from UEFA after two days of trouble in the city were followed by hooligan violence from their own fans inside the Stade Velodrome after the 1-1 draw with England at Euro 2016.
Before the Group B game a hospital spokesman in Marseille said that one fan was in a ‘critical condition’ and five others had been seriously hurt in fighting in the Vieux Port between Russian and English followers and local troublemakers.
Police had used tear gas to break up trouble on both Thursday and Friday nights as well as in the afternoon and also to quell incidents outside the stadium as crowds headed for the game.
Then came further trouble at the match into which the European federation is sure to open an investigation after studying their official reports from match officials.
During the second half an announcement over the public address system asked the Russian fans to remain in the stadium for some minutes. A small group responded by lighting flares. This contravened UEFA regulations but stewards remained apparently content to look on and let the flares burn out.
A loud firecracker was also exploded and a flare fired into another section of the crowd.
At the final whistle, immediately after the Russian equaliser, significant numbers of Russian fans – some shirtless ultras – launched a charge across the stand towards retreating England fans. Further fighting and violence ensued before reinforcements of stewards arrived on the scene.
Rebekah Vardy, wife of England striker Jamie Vardy tweeted: “That has to be up there with the worst experience EVER at an away game! Teargassed for no reason, caged and treated like animals!”
The scenes did not augur well for what might occur back on the streets of the city later through the night.
A Football Association spokesman, largely repeating he tenor of earlier statements, said: “The Football Association is very disappointed by the terrible scenes of disorder and condemns such disorder. These matters are now in the hands of the relevant authorities to deal with then appropriately and quickly. We would continue to urge England fans to support England in the right way.”
A hard core of Russian followers have European Championship ‘form’.
After incidents at the 2012 finals in Poland the Russian Football Union was punished by UEFA’s disciplinary panel for crowd disturbances, the setting off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners at a group against the Czech Republic in Wroclaw.
UEFA handed down a suspended six-point deduction and fined the Russian FA €120,000. The points suspension probation period expired after the conclusion of the Euro 2016 qualifying competition. Hence the Russians can claim to have a clean record.
Russian manager Leonid Slutsky said his attention had been focused on the match and he was not “up to speed” with whatever crowd events may have occurred.
The game had already been identified as one of the most sensitive flashpoint matches with 1,000 police being deployed in the Mediterranean city in the expectation of 70,000 England and 20,000 Russian fans flooding in, thousands without tickets for a game which recorded a 62,000 attendance.
A contributory concern were fears of a repeat of the violence of 18 years ago. On that occasion England played Tunisia in the city in a World Cup group game and hooligan supporters clashed with local youths.
Troubled had flared initially on Thursday when two arrests were made and four police officers were hurt in breaking up clashes between around 150 people outside bars and restaurants. Disturbances intensified on Friday after the arrival of more fans with nowhere to stay. One man was thrown into the harbour after being beaten.
During and after the initial incidents rowdy English followers sang the national anthem, derogatory songs about the IRA and German bombers during the war as well as voting to leave the European Union. However much of the trouble on Friday was ascribed to organised gangs of Russian hooligans.
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