Detectives say football fans, not racists, were to blame for violence in Preston

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The Independent Online

Police denied yesterday that "simmering tension" had caused Sunday's racial clashes in Preston.

Police denied yesterday that "simmering tension" had caused Sunday's racial clashes in Preston.

The violence, suggestive of the race riots seen in some northern cities last summer, resulted in the arrest of 10 white men and two Asians.

The trouble was sparked by a minor car crash after which, an Asian man in one of the vehicles was said to have been attacked by white youths. A group of Asian men arrived and the violence spread.

The disturbance in the Deepdale area of the Lancashire town lasted about four hours before police could contain the situation. Yesterday, extra officers were patrolling the area, close to Preston North End's football ground.

Mohammed Azam, a local co-ordinator for the Coalition Against Racism, said: "In the run-up to the local elections, in which the BNP is standing for seats in Oldham and Burnley, it is quite worrying. I hope this was a one-off incident."

Burnley, Oldham and Bradford were hit by race riots last summer in some of the worst violence seen in mainland Britain for 20 years.

Chief Superintendent Russ Weaver said rumours that members of the BNP had been gathering in Preston to cause trouble were more damaging than the clashes themselves.

"The situation in Deepdale is such that we do not have that kind of simmering tension which has characterised incidents in other areas in the North-west in recent months."

He said a "spontaneous skirmish" broke out after the car crash. Crowds of football fans were then monitored in the city centre, scene of much of the trouble, he added. There were reports of a "few broken windows.

"Our view is that whilst the initial tension occurred round this road accident, really most of our problems were centred round the aftermath of the football match. It was an unfortunate situation but one which was very much under control," he said.

However, Maureen Sanderson, 37, a resident, said she would be "very surprised if the disturbances had anything to do with the fact the local team failed to qualify for the First Division play-offs. We are all disappointed that we did not get to the play-offs, but we all knew by yesterday that it would take a miracle".

A Lancashire police spokesman said that a number of arrests had been made for racially aggravated and public order offences.

*Two men stabbed an Asian taxi driver with a kitchen knife in an unprovoked attack in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

The driver, aged 45, suffered head, neck and hand wounds after he picked up the pair at a house. His condition was said to be stable.