Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: England face explusion threat by Uefa over fan violence

By Ian Herbert

England have been warned by UEFA that they risk elimination from the Euro 2016 championships, along with Russia, if their supporters are involved in a repeat of the violence which left 19 Britons hospitalised in Marseille on Saturday.

Though England supporters were set upon before the Euro 2016 game by a gang of 300 Russians armed with weapons, European football’s governing body has directed its threat at the Football Association, as well as the Russian Football Union.

In a statement that may surprise the FA and fans of Roy Hodgson’s team, the UEFA executive committee’s expression of “disgust” at the clashes was accompanied by a description of the “so-called supporters of the national teams of England and Russia”.

England and the Football Association are powerless to directly influence the behaviour of fans, though some kind of appeal for calm is now expected from the English camp.

Thugs wearing black T-shirts carried bags containing equipment for an organised assault when they arrived in Marseille on Saturday afternoon. They seized upon the chaos already being caused by rival French fans to launch indiscriminate attacks on English supporters.

England fans ran for their lives but the Russians outnumbered them. British police, who have no jurisdiction on French soil and can only attempt to moderate the way fans behave to assist the French, were caught up in the violence. British officers also provided bandages and medical equipment to supporters.

The Russians seemed to have been organised around individual clubs. Their black T-shirts carried the names of the Lokomotiv Moscow and CSKA Moscow sides.

UEFA’s initial statement yesterday had suggested it suspected Russian fans of being the architects of the extraordinary violence, and said it viewed the clashes before the game with “utter disgust”. The second sent out a message that conflicted with that.

The governing body has questions if its own to answer, including why it allowed a match which carried serious risk of violence to be staged at 9pm on a Saturday, and why there was little segregation of Russian and English fans.

But UEFA’s executive committee has warned both football associations that “irrespective of any decisions taken by the independent disciplinary bodies relating to incidents inside the stadium — it will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions on the Football Association (FA) and the Russian Football Union (RFU), including the potential disqualification of their respective teams from the tournament, should such violence occur again”.

It added: “We urge both the FA and the RFU to appeal to their supporters to behave in a responsible and respectful manner.”

Meanwhile, authorities have suggested England fans travel to Lille to drink before Thursday’s game against Wales, due to an alcohol ban in nearby Lens, where the game takes place. Russia play Slovakia on Wednesday, in Lille.

Belfast Telegraph