Sun, sea, shame: England's Euro efforts threatened by violence

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The Independent Online

England could face expulsion from Euro 2004 if violence involving fans on the Algarve becomes more widespread, European football's governing body warned yesterday.

England could face expulsion from Euro 2004 if violence involving fans on the Algarve becomes more widespread, European football's governing body warned yesterday.

The warning came as an England fan was sentenced to two years jail by a Portuguese judge last night, for his part in rioting early Tuesday in the beach resort of Albufeira.

Amid angry scenes at the Albufeira court house, Gary Norman Mann, 47, from Faversham, Kent, was told he would serve his sentence in England and would be deported immediately. Ten more England fans were ordered deported, with seven of those men given suspended jail sentences and three cleared. Thirty-three more fans face court today after a second night of violence on Wednesday night.

After a second consecutive night of fighting in Albufeira, Uefa officials hinted at drastic consequences if trouble flared again. Mounted police and officers in riot gear were sent in as fighting broke out in the early hours yesterday among 250 fans on the now notorious bar-filled street known as The Strip. The previous night, the resort was the scene of the first major outbreak of violence at Euro 2004 involving England.

A spokesman for Uefa said: "It is not being viewed as football hooliganism by Uefa. However, if it changes ­ and we hope it doesn't ­ and there is trouble around a stadium or around an England match that position could change and we would have to review it." Before the tournament, Uefa warned that violence from English football fans at matches could result in the expulsion of the team.

Police in Albufeira said tension had begun to build through the night with racist abuse aimed at two Africans and taunting between two rival groups drinking on either side of the street. Violence then broke out when drinkers in one bar objected because the Portuguese owner closed early, fearing for his safety. At the height of the trouble at about 2am, officers charged into fans, who scattered before regrouping to taunt them.

The scenes were condemned yesterday by Tony Blair, who said it brought "shame" to the nation and "the vast majority of England football fans who just want to enjoy the game".

David Swift, the senior British officer advising the Portuguese police during Euro 2004, said: "What we have is English yobs getting drunk and disgracing the country. But the connection with the game is non-existent ... My disappointment was that the scale of what we saw last night was serious."

Scenes in Albufeira have also put renewed pressure on relations between Uefa and the Football Association, which stands to lose millions of pounds if the team is expelled.

Both organisations insisted yesterday that the culprits were holidaymakers carrying out gratuitous violence ­ which is not unusual in such a beach resort in the summer. The FA claims it has taken all reasonable precautions by selling tickets only to members of its supporters' club and anyone else is the responsibility of the Portuguese organisers. Yesterday, it emerged that the FA had appointed the sports lawyer Mark Gay, who has fought drugs-related cases for Rio Ferdinand, Mark Bosnich and Greg Rusedski, to defend it if Uefa presses ahead with action.

The spotlight turns today on the behaviour of England fans at the match against Switzerland in Coimbra. Police had been concerned about safety if there is an influx of fans such as there was on Sunday, when 20,000 England supporters bought tickets for the game against France on the black market. But yesterday they were hopeful the English would be deterred by the small 30,000 capacity of the stadium and the eight-hour rail journey from the Algarve.

The dozen Britons in court yesterday all denied wrongdoing. Relatives of some of the men in Britain claimed yesterday they were arrested after being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, while violence was occurring. After the sentence was handed down to Mann, who has the St George's cross tattooed on his forearm, he said, amid angry scenes: "I wasn't even there. It's a stitch-up."

Other than Mann, who was convicted of taking part in a riot and inciting others to riot, Peter Barmick, 37, from Middlesbrough received a nine-month suspended sentence, suspended for three years.

Andrew Williams, 22, from Burgess Hill, Sussex, John Parkes, 19, from Dudley, Daniel Marsh, 20, from Barnsley, Ricky Tsigarides 22, from Cheshunt, John Jackson, 22, from Newcastle and David Jackson, 28, from Peterborough, were all given seven-month jail sentences, suspended for three years. Paul Donahue, 32, from Manchester, and Jason Boyle, 22, from Manchester were both cleared of criminal wrongdoing but were told they could not return to Portugal for five years.

Jack Hobbs, 19, from Oxford was cleared of criminal wrongdoing but told he could not return to Portugal for a year.

Joe Nicholls, 24, from Aldershot, was freed. Mr Nicholls, who had been accused of inciting police, told the court: "I am sorry if any offence has been caused to the Portuguese people ... The police have been brutal and treated us like criminals. We have not committed the crimes we have been accused of."

Mr Donahue, who appeared in court with a black eye, a cut on his cheek and said he had two cracked ribs, claimed he was attacked by police as he walked home from a bar.

Judge Filipe Marques told the court the violence began at 1:10am when a doorman at a bar was assaulted and military police went to see what was happening.

An officer was then assaulted, the judge said, and "glasses of beer started being thrown. When the police tried to leave the bar the fans tried to stop them and some of the fans tried to assault them and bottles were thrown ... "Gary Mann was detained and arrested for throwing a bottle at military police. When he ran away he incited others to do the same and to fight against the police."

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