FA chief defends England fans over violence
London, June 14 (IANS) Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke has written to European football's governing body UEFA raising serious concerns over security arrangements ahead of England's Euro Cup clash with Wales.
The Group B clash between Russia and England in Marseille on Friday witnessed extensive violence between both sets of fans before and after the match.
The violence left at least 35 people injured -- most of them English -- including a 50-year-old Englishman who is battling for his life in a hospital.
The incident prompted UEFA to threaten to disqualify both teams from the ongoing tournament. Dyke however, defended English supporters in his letter to the European body.
"The implication in your jointly-addressed letter is that English fans were in part responsible for the terrible incidents at the end of the match with Russia. This is contradicted both by the video evidence and by the fact your independent disciplinary bodies have only instigated sanctions against the Russian Football Union," the Independent quoted Dyke as stating in the letter on Tuesday.
"The only blame apportioned in your letter for the event inside the stadium is to 'so-called supporters' when it could be suggested there were other factors involved," the letter added.
"A minority of English fans were clearly involved in some of those incidents and that is extremely disappointing to us all. But please also recognise that tens of thousands have behaved in a positive way. Regardless, we are working with all of the authorities and UEFA to do everything we can to avoid a repeat."
Dyke also urged the UEFA to ensure that French security officials improve their efforts to prevent further clashes between fans.
"We know that UK Police authorities are stepping up their support on the ground, but we would urge you to bring the policing authorities in both Lille and Lens together as soon as possible to ensure there is a co-ordinated and effective plan in place. Again we are ready to play our part in these discussions," he wrote.
"We are in regular contact with HM Government and their various law enforcement agencies to share what we can with them, and they in turn are co-operating very closely with their French counterparts and your tournament organisers."
With the match between England and Wales taking place in Lens, English fans without tickets have been advised by French authorities to travel to nearby Lille. However, with Russia meeting Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday, Dyke is apprehensive that more violence could be in the offing.
"We understand there is to be an alcohol ban across the host cities and we would welcome this, particularly in Lille on Wednesday where many English fans have been asked to gather ahead of Thursday's match against Wales in Lens," he stated.
"We have, following consultation with the authorities, advised our supporters without tickets for the match in Lens to congregate there, and whilst we will be working hard to positively influence their behaviour we have serious concerns around the security arrangements for the city in the next few days. These concerns are heightened with the knowledge that Russia will play in Lille on Wednesday afternoon," Dyke added.
The FA chief also blamed the French police for the violence between Russian and English fans, asserting that security arrangements were inadequate.
"We believe the stewarding arrangements in place were unacceptable. Supporters were able to get in with fireworks and flares, and then let them off, and there was insufficient segregation between the Russian and English fans, particularly given the events of the previous two days," Dyke wrote.
"Having said that, let me be clear, we join you in condemning the horrible scenes in Marseille away from the stadium on Thursday, Friday and matchday."