‘England don’t deserve to be thrown out of Euros’

Date published: Monday 13th June 2016 12:07

England fans

Disqualifying England or Russia from Euro 2016 would be an unjust and inappropriate sanction, according to Football Supporters’ Federation chief executive Kevin Miles.

Sickening scenes in Marseille involving English, Russian and French fans marred Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated Group B encounter at the Stade Velodrome.

Three days of trouble in the Old Port area continued inside the ground and 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.

England avoided any charge but UEFA’s executive committee has warned it is ready to impose the ultimate sanction of expulsion from the tournament on one or both nations if there is similar trouble.

FSF chief Miles believes barring the teams from Euro 2016 would be an unfair sanction for both countries, despite condemning the “organised brutality” of some Russian supporters.

“To make the same threat against both countries would seem to put the behaviour of both sets of fans on a par and I think that’s unjust as well,” he told Press Association Sport.

“Any misdemeanours that you saw involving English supporters in Marseille paled into insignificance when you saw the organised brutality from some of the Russian hooligan groups.

“But in both the English and the Russian case, I wouldn’t support expulsion from the tournament because once again that punishes the majority for the actions of a very small minority.

“The large majority of the Russian supporters as well as the English ones have been impeccably behaved.

“It punishes the whole country (and) it punishes the team for things out of their control. I don’t think that’s an appropriate measure.”

A 16-year-old England fan is one of six charged following the violence in Marseille on the opening weekend of the tournament, French prosecutors have confirmed.

A 50-year-old English fan is also in a critical condition with severe brain injuries after being attacked by Russia supporters armed with iron bars.

Rather than the indiscriminate use of tear gas and water cannons seen in Marseille, Miles wants to see targeted action by the French police for the remainder of the tournament.

Most concerning for the FSF chief executive was the lack of Russian arrests, with Miles now concerned those same individuals are free to carry on their criminal behaviour elsewhere in the tournament.

Brice Robin, chief Marseille prosecutor, told reporters on Monday that 150 Russian hooligans had been involved in the trouble, describing them as “hyper violent” and “hyper rapid”.

There were just two Russians arrested – and that was for a pitch invasion. There are concerns of a repeat of the scenes in Marseille with England facing Wales on Thursday in Lens, just 23 miles from Lille where Russia face Slovakia the previous day.

“There’s no question that Wednesday in particular is going to be an issue because there are large numbers of Welsh and English fans already booked into Lille because Lens just isn’t big enough to accommodate them,” Miles said.

“Lille is the next nearest big city, it’s certainly the next nearest host city, and is on the Eurostar line, so it’s a natural place for people from England and Wales to set up their base for the game in Lens.

“Now that’s pre-planned long before they realised there was going to be this sort of trouble with the Russians.

“The Russians obviously are playing there the day before our game, so that puts the English, the Welsh, the Slovakians and the Russian fans, to a large extent, all in Lille on Wednesday.

“Given what’s happened in Marseille and our experience with the Russians, it’s got to be a cause for concern.”

The fear of more violence has prompted the government to send additional British police to help their French counterparts ahead of Thursday’s match.

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”.

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