England and Russia face being thrown out of Euro 2016 if scenes of serious fan disorder continue, UEFA’s executive committee has warned.
Ugly scenes both before and during Saturday night’s Group B game in Marseille left a number of supporters injured, with one England fan in a critical condition in hospital.
UEFA was swift to open disciplinary proceedings against the Football Union of Russia for alleged crowd disturbances, racist behaviour and the setting off of fireworks towards the end of the game.
But now their executive committee has gone one step further in a strongly worded statement which indicates the governing body will not hesitate to impose the ultimate sanction.
The statement read: “The UEFA Executive Committee would like to express its disgust for the violent clashes which occurred in the city of Marseille.
“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.
“The UEFA 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.
“We urge both the FA and the RFU to appeal to their supporters to behave in a responsible and respectful manner.
“We would also like to publicly voice our support for the work of the French Authorities and security forces for their efforts to deliver a safe and secure tournament in challenging circumstances.”
Fear of more violence has prompted the government to send more British police to help their French counterparts ahead of England’s next game against Wales in Lens on Thursday.
Downing Street said Home Secretary Theresa May made the offer during a meeting with her counterpart, the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve,
A Downing Street spokeswoman said, while officers have been in France since before the tournament began, they had offered to send more “to support the security operation around the match in Lens”.
Meanwhile, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham has called on the government to intervene and issue a statement in parliament regarding the safety of England fans in France.
Burnham told BBC Radio Five’s Sportsweek programme: “What I’m most surprised about is the silence from the (British) government because this is a very serious situation.
“We have got a lot of football to be played and we have got three home nations out there and the safety of their supporters is the issue.
“So I think we need the government to make a statement tomorrow and just to set out some of the facts here.”
Four years ago, UEFA imposed a series of sanctions on Russia, including a 120,000 euro (£96,000) fine, for their fans’ behaviour in the previous European Championship held in Poland and Ukraine.
Russia has long been dogged with issues relating to racism, with FARE executive director Piara Powar warning last December there “will be incidents inside stadiums, around stadiums” during the 2018 World Cup which is due to be staged in Russia.
FARE observers were dotted around the Stade Velodrome on Saturday, although there has yet to be confirmation on the nature of the racist behaviour.
The chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation, Kevin Miles, who is in Marseille, blamed the French police for many of the problems and said England fans were not responsible for initiating any of the violence.
Miles told Sportsweek: “I am very, very critical of the policing – the French police have stood back and watched some of those groups get themselves organised and then initiate attacks on English fans.
“They have done nothing to prevent those attacks, nothing to make the England fans feel protected. And their response is to fire tear gas in the direction of the incident.
“None of the violent incidents have been initiated by England fans. I’ve not said the behaviour of England fans has been perfect… but there’s a big difference between that sort of anti-social behaviour and initiating a violent attack.”