UEFA Threatens to Expel Russia and England from Euro 2016

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Police clash with fans in Marseille (Getty Images)
(WFI) Russia and England could be kicked out of Euro 2016 if there is any more fan violence that has marred the opening days of the tournament.

“The UEFA Executive Committee would like to express its disgust at the violent clashes which occurred in the city of Marseille,” European football’s governing body said in a statement on Sunday.

“Such unacceptable behaviour by so-called supporters of the national teams of England and Russia has no place in football, a sport we must protect and defend.”

UEFA launched disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union after Russian fans were seen punching and kicking England supporters and hurling missiles on Saturday, highlighting the poor segregation between fans at the Stade Velodrome stadium.

UEFA said “it will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions on the Football Association (FA) and the Russian Football Union (RFS), including the potential disqualification of their respective teams from the tournament, should such violence occur again”.

English, Russian and French fans clashed on the streets of Marseille even before a ball was kicked in the opening match on Friday in which France defeated Romania 2-1.

Over 30 fans were injured in fighting with more than a dozen arrested by police in the Mediterranean port city.

French riot police have come in for criticism for failing to manage the hooliganism, which involves a minority of fans. Tear gas and water cannons have been used to disperse those involved in the fan violence. Some fans in Marseille reacted angrily to the police’s actions, saying their heavy-handed response made matters worse.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said in a statement that the association treated UEFA’s threat of England being expelled “with the utmost seriousness”. "We understand the potential implications of our supporters’ actions and wholly accept that every effort needs to be made by The FA to positively urge them to act in a responsible and respectful way,” he said.

"Violent scenes like those witnessed over the weekend in Marseille have no place in football, nor society as a whole. We want people - fans and locals - to feel safe and enjoy a festival atmosphere at the Euros and we will continue to work closely with all the relevant authorities to achieve that."

Vitaly Mutko, sports minister and head of the Russian football federation, initially downplayed the clashes in the Stade Velodrome but later said the violent fans had brought shame on his country.

Russian football’s problems with racism and hooliganism in its domestic leagues is well-documented. Reports of organised Russian hooligans in Marseille raises fresh concerns about how the country's FA and 2018 World Cup organizers are preparing to deal with the issue ahead of the FIFA showpiece and during the competition in two years' time.

The French government and authorities in Lille are now poised to beef up security and policing for the Russia match with Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday. British police last month encouraged ticket-less England fans to head to the city where there is a bigger fan zone. But it is only around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lens where England take on Wales on Thursday, sparking fears further violence between organized Russian hooligans and English fans.

In a statement, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) condemned the violent behaviour of fans in Marseille and said the French had failed to implement sufficient security measures. "Spectators located in the Russian supporter areas were able to overcome barriers and access the English supporters’ section. This demonstrates that preventative measures in place to segregate the fans were inadequate. It appears there was a breakdown in general structure, response and crowd management," the statement said.

The ICSS called for an urgent review of the operating procedures for crowd management and spectator segregation "to ensure that best practice operations, including those from previous tournaments, are in place".

After fan violence dominated global headlines in the first three days of the European Championship, the ICSS added: "Security officials will need to constantly review their match security profiles and threat and risk assessments on a daily basis for each match and host city."


By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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