England supporters fall foul of Dutch police

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The Independent Online
DUTCH police arrested 400 England football supporters in Rotterdam yesterday as fans and police clashed before last night's crucial World Cup qualifying match. England's World Cup hopes were left in tatters after the team lost 2-0.

There was controversy after the game when Graham Taylor - whose future as manager is now in doubt - said the referee should have sent off the Dutch captain minutes before he scored the goal which set the Netherlands on the road to victory.

Earlier, the mayor of Rotterdam issued emergency powers of detention to police to deal with what they described as 'the worst football-related violence' seen in the country.

One English supporter was injured when an explosive device was thrown in a crowded street. Police said that they were investigating a report that another supporter had been shot.

The arrested supporters were detained in converted military barracks. Dutch police said many were expected to be charged with criminal offences and the rest would be deported. But about 200 escaped from the barracks, and unruffled Dutch police said that while they had no idea where they had gone, they were 'not too concerned'.

Hundreds of supporters had fought with Dutch police and rival fans throughout the city.

Many shops and restaurants had windows smashed and customers were forced to take shelter inside as mobs of England fans moved through the streets pursued by riot police, including some on horseback and dog handlers.

Supporters arrested in Amsterdam on Tuesday arrived at Luton airport last night, most with jumpers and jackets pulled over their faces. Home Office officials photographed them as they arrived without luggage, passports or money.

The flights had been delayed as fighting continued after some supporters refused to give their names and addresses. But at Luton they denied any fighting had taken place on the three chartered aircraft. About 40 Dutch officers escorted each flight. They were met by Scotland Yard officers and armed airport police.

Those prepared to offer an explanation blamed other supporters. Some said that if the English police had been handling things 'this would never have happened'.

One 23-year-old supporter from Carlisle showed his official England supporters travel club card, as did many others. He said he had been to Sweden and Poland and intended to go to San Marino. 'Police seemed to think they've something to prove wherever England go. They cordoned off the street when some drunk fans started singing 'Rule Britannia'. Within 10 minutes they blocked off the street and arrested everyone in it.'

Hundreds of England supporters who had no tickets were rounded up by police to be deported.

Two more flights with 300 fans on board were expected to land late last night but both of them, and a third with 100 supporters expected early today, were later cancelled.

After the game about 700 police, including 500 riot officers, were on alert in Rotterdam city centre. A group of England supporters, angry at being kept in the stadium, set fire to about 20 seats.