Violent attacks against British football fans could put many off travelling to Europe to support their clubs, a leading fans’ group has warned. The fears were expressed after football supporters were hurt in a violent, apparently anti-Semitic attack in France last night.
Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur, known for having traditional links to London’s Jewish community, were assaulted in Lyon by “50 masked men”, whom witnesses said were giving Nazi salutes. The attack is the second against Spurs fans in Europe this season after a similar one in Rome in November last year.
And Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters Federation said he believed that the threat of more violence would cause some fans to stay home. He said: “Any trip abroad, even the cheapest costs quite a lot of money, so there is certainly a danger. People are not going to pay out large sums of money if they think they are going to be at risk of violence.”
A board member of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust said he had spoken to many others who were considering suspending their support of their team in Europe because of the violence meted out against them. Darren Alexander, 41, who witnessed the attack, said: “I think it is a possibility that Spurs fans might not travel in the future. Some may well think it is more aggravation than it is worth.”
French police said three people were arrested after a group smashed the windows of a pub in which Tottenham Hotspurs fans were drinking ahead of their match with Olympique Lyonnais tonight. The club confirmed that three fans sustained “minor injuries”, although French police said an additional four were hurt.
The attackers reportedly came in two waves, smashing doors and throwing cast-iron chairs, wooden objects, and a flare into the pub. The pub’s landlord, Dave Eales, from Retford, said: “At 10.18 the pub was rammed with Tottenham fans watching the Champions League on the television. The front of the pub, which is made up of reinforced glass, was attacked by 20-25 people.
“They threw projectiles through the windows. There was a stand-off. They didn’t get into the bar. Then it calmed down. Then they came back a second time and it all started again.
“There were three injured Tottenham fans taken away by ambulance. One of them had a head injury. I’m not sure how bad it was.” Despite the reports, French police said they were not following the anti-Semitic line of inquiry as a priority.
A Tottenham spokesman said: “Club officials attended an incident last night in Lyon. A group of around 50 people confronted fans. The situation was dealt with and arrests were made within the hour. Three fans sustained minor injuries and received prompt medical assistance.”