Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Anxiety as bottleneck and uncompromising police created fear of crush exiting ground

By Jim Gracey

A group of around 400 day-tripping Northern Ireland fans blamed heavy-handed security for their nightmare journey home from Lyon on Thursday, made bearable only by the incredible result.

Problems began as the 51,000 attendance began exiting the Parc Olympique after Northern Ireland's famous 2-0 victory.

Green and White Army supporters were among many hundreds corralled into a bottleneck created when police erected a triangular-shaped barrier that only allowed a few fans to pass on either side. Despite pleas from squeezed fans, some with young children, police refused to remove the barrier to ease the pressure, one officer intervening angrily when some fans began pushing the impediment aside. No action was taken as fans began clambering over the barrier to avoid a threat of crushing.

The hold-up meant fans on a day-trip schedule were late rejoining their coaches, parked 15 minutes' walk from the stadium.

Some didn't get on their way until an hour-and-a-half after the final whistle.

But that wasn't the end of the delays as several times on their airport journey, police inexplicably halted the Belfast flight bound coaches for long periods.

One frustrated fan said: "There was no obvious point or reason to what we endured on Thursday night. There were no problems between the rival fans and we did wonder if it was an exercise for dealing with a more difficult fixture up ahead?

"The threatened crush outside the stadium was frightening.

"We were meant to fly at 11pm but in the event it was well after midnight. Luckily we were on charters or we'd have been stranded overnight."

Fans also faced long delays in clearing passport control when they eventually touched down at Belfast International airport.

Another fan told the Belfast Telegraph. "It was ironic that we stood reading signs about not importing farm animals into the country after being herded like cattle all evening. Only for the result, it would have been much harder to endure."

Belfast Telegraph

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