Few football fans would have enjoyed the vision of the fighting between England and Russian fans prior to, and after their European Championship opener.
Instead of newspapers extolling the football played on the pitch the papers in the UK have been full of pictures of bloodied or boozed up fans.
The greatest sadness has to be the pointing of fingers by so many who claimed to have the situation under control.
England and Russia have been faced with expulsion if their fans misbehave again, and it may be just as well England are playing Wales rather thane another European team in their next match, as there may be less chance of sections of the opposition attacking them in order to get them thrown out. The biggest concern will be on the pitch where Wales stand a realistic chance of winning.
England in the past has not been innocent in such scenes but in fairness and rightly so the big question being asked is when was the last time that you read or heard about football violence in England? The British Police and the FA should be applauded for the work they have down to stamp violence out. The sad thing is the same cannot be said in Europe. Russian fans according to Police and eye-witnesses appeared in Marseille “tooled up” like the hooligans of the 1970’s.
Realistically the events of Marseille can be attributed to a number of issues. Some are trying to say that the scuffles were all linked to Great Britain’s referendum to exit the European Community and give the EU the opportunity to say they don’t want them, but this seems a little far fetched.
Large numbers of British fans made the trip to France because of its close proximity. Most are no more than loud mouthed drunks there to watch the football, similar to the loud mouthed drunks who wish to go clubbing in Spain. Many are a long way from the football thugs of yesteryear despite their drunken bravado.
The Police in France apparently turned down the co-operation of their British counterparts. The same Police who assisted the Germans in 2006 at the World Cup and ensured there was next to no trouble. British Police were highly visible there and knew who the trouble makers were and weeded them out before anything could start.
There were then and no doubt are now hooligans from other nations, not just Russia, who wish to make a point, to show that the English hooligans of yesteryear are no more and they are now the new kids on the block; most English fans would happily agree that they are no longer the premier thugs.
The problem is that as an island nation the English have always been a nation that does not run. They do not shy away from a challenge, so when threatened many will stand up to that threat, much to their detriment in Marseille.
Some papers have tried to link the events of the weekend to immigration issues, this is laughable.
UEFA has come out with a strong line on the violence threatening to send the teams home. A position that probably should have been taken many years ago. Yet UEFA seem as out of touch as FIFA.
In 2012 Nicklas Bendtner was fined UKL80,000 and banned for one international game after promoting a betting company on his underwear.
Yet in 2007 the Serbian FA are ordered to pay just UKL16,500 for racist chanting by supporters. In 2008 UEFA fined the Croatian Football Federation nearly UKL10,000 after their fans were found guilty of racist behaviour in their Euro 2008 quarter final tie with Turkey. In 2011 Scotland’s Rangers are fined EUR40,000 and fans were banned from their next European away game after singing sectarian songs in their Europa League match against PSV Eindhoven. In 2012 FC Porto were fined EUR20,000 six weeks after Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli was subjected to monkey chants by the Portuguese side’s fans. Can you see a pattern emerging?
In June 2012 UEFA announced on their website that Russia were to be fined EUR30,000 euros after “the setting off and throwing of fireworks by spectators, displaying of illicit banners and the invasion of the pitch by a supporter at last week’s UEFA Euro 2012 Group A match against Poland in Warsaw.” The Russian Federation were also fined UKL96,761 after Russian fans clashed with police and officials during and after their Euro 2012 opener against Czech Republic.
What this shows is that in the eyes of UEFA flashing a pair of underpants with a sponsors name on is on a par with a nation’s fans clashing with Police! A nation that will be hosting the next FIFA World Cup no less.
It is all very easy to blame the nation to whom the fans involved in the unsightly violence belong to, but there are far more issues to be addressed, as is often the case.
Who is totally to blame? No one, but there are a number of parties at whom some blame must be levelled, and UEFA cannot escape some mud sticking to its decision makers.