Grown men throwing chairs at each other. Bottles flying through the air. Those ‘violent fan clashes’ suddenly looked very mild as violence erupted in France on Saturday before and after the England v Russia game.
Those following social media will have seen clips of England fans (see bottom of the page for more if you like) will not have seen the normal pictures of organised English hooligans causing trouble. This was different. The fans out in Marseille seem to be those who like a beer and a song but aren’t too interested in causing problems unless taunted. What we saw on Friday when young French gangs turned up to taunt them was mild compared to what happened when the Russians turned up.
These were organised Ultras from CSKA Moscow plus at least two other clubs who have joined forces to fight what they feel are organised English hooligans. Armed with weapons and willing to put people in hospital (or worse) the scenes of them ganging up on individuals is horrific.
England and Russia have for now been given a warning from UEFA that any more violence could see both teams disqualified from the competition. That might seem unlikely and an ‘idle threat’ from UEFA, but the fans will be in the same area later in the week. They’ll both be in the area in Lille when England face Wales and Russia take on Slovakia. Could Wales – so far not involved in any trouble – be pulled into the trouble too? That would be a huge shame after entering their first competition since 1950.
So what could the consequences be if more fighting occurs – or even if that is that? The threat of banning England will seem unfair as there seem to be plenty of fans of different countries getting involved. The Polish and Northern Irish were reported to be fighting, then dancing together and then fighting again earlier today.
A friend of mine is a Leicester City fan so I obviously taunted him by suggesting that they could be banned from Europe next season and spoil their Champions League dreams. He suggested that they’d never be banned. English football brings too much money into UEFA now for them to do anything like that. We were seem as an English ‘disease’ in the 80s, but now this appears to be our fault purely because we are congregating in one place.
The next World Cup will (probably) be in in Russia. That suggestion seems crazy right now, but not even corruption on a huge scale being uncovered will stop the Russians from hosting it seems. With proof that they will have organised games arranging fights as well as huge racism problems is that a tournament we actually want to have the Home Countries involved in?
And what of the equally crazy idea of having different countries host the Euros in 2020? The French police don’t seem too bothered about stopping the violence so when the games are spread out won’t this mean that the police efforts will be taken less seriously too? There won’t be too many countries being too pleased about hosting any Russian or England games when the draw is made. And who can blame them?
Let me know your thoughts. How can we control this latest outpour of violence – or should we ignore this as an isolated incident?