England fans in football riot

One dead, 70 injured, 40 arrested and Dublin game halted as hooligans hurl seats into crowd
Click to follow
The Independent Online
English football was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday when rioting fans forced the abandonment of a friendly match with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

The trouble erupted when Ireland took a 1-0 lead and sections of the English crowd in the Upper West tier ripped up seats and benches to hurl missiles at supporters below, injuring several people.

Hundreds of fans fled on to the pitch as police and stewards struggled to control the violence. At least 12 people were arrested. Some fans, including a young boy, were taken to hospital, others were given first- aid at the scene.

The referee took the teams off the pitch, but the hail of missiles intensified and, after 12 minutes it was announced that the match had been abandoned.

The 4,500 English fans were kept in the stadium while the rest of the crowd left, but then fresh violence broke out when riot police moved in to escort the England supporters from the ground. Police used truncheons as they came under attack, several people were injured and further arrests were made.

Politicians and sports authorities on both sides of the Irish sea swiftly condemned the "shameful" scenes at Lansdowne Road, which immediately raised doubts over England's role in international football and the European Championships which are due to be staged in England in 1996.

However, questions were being raised last night over the security precautions at the ground. The police intelligence unit in London that monitors football hooligans said that it had been in contact with the gardai before the match and had been expecting trouble from the England fans.

The England manager, Terry Venables, said: "It was terrible. I have not got words strong enough to describe how we feel about this. There could be repercussions."

His opposite number, the Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton, was furious: "I have seen a lot in football but nothing like this. It is a disaster for Irish football but I didn't want the game abandoned because what do you do with 2,000 English fans running around the town?

"The English fans were being bombarded by some of their own And they brought out the worst in some of ours."

Graham Kelly, chief executive of the Football Association, was asked what the repercussions might be for the European Championships. "I really can't answer that question at the moment, but it is a situation we will have to face. I can't believe the callous disregard for women and children," he said.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, described the events as "utterly disgraceful". The best antidote, he said, would be for those responsible to be brought speedily to justice "and dealt with very severely". But he refused to be drawn on whether the riot would prejudice England's staging of the 1996 European Championship.

And while he promised that any lessons would be learnt, he warned "it is extremely difficult to take preventative action when you have a number of hooligans determined to cause trouble in this way".

It was, he said, "not possible to give a guarantee that incidents like this will not occur". He added that he was sure there would be an inquiry.

Last night, questions were being raised over why the England fans were put in a tier above other sections of the crowd and why it took police so long to bring the trouble under control.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service in London, which monitors the activities of English football hooligans, said it had been aware some fans were planning to cause trouble.

In a statement, the NCIS said: "Our football intelligence unit has been in regular contact with the gardai in the weeks running up to this game. We have provided every assistance with intelligence and travel information.

"We were aware that disorder was planned to happen within the football ground. Following the disorder we will be co-operating with the gardai to offer them any and every assistance."

Even before the violence erupted last night, the atmosphere in those parts of the ground occupied by England fans had been ugly.

Irish supporters claimed they had been taunted by the visitors before the start of the game. One said: "When they started singing God Save The Queen, the English started jeering at us and some were shouting `IRA bastards'."

Bernard Allen, the Irish Sports Minister, questionned how it had been possible for so many English troublemakers to obtain tickets, given that all the visitors' ticket sales had been controlled by official English supporters' clubs.

Sean Connolly, general secretary of the Football Association of Ireland, said it "would now look seriously at banning all English fans from future games."

The former Irish international and Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, widely tipped as a successor to Jack Charlton as Irish manager, said the problems had "without a shadow of a doubt" been exacerbated by the Irish authorities' decision to put the English suporters on an upper tier.

The violence immediately put England's future in international football back in the spotlight. There will almost certainly be an inquiry by the international governing body UEFA.

Further reports, page 40