FOOTBALL: Real blamed for Chelsea's fan violence

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The Independent Online


Chelsea are confident they will escape heavy punishment from football's European governing body, Uefa, for the violence that marred their Cup- Winners' Cup semi-final against Real Zaragoza on Thursday. Instead, argued Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman, it is the Spanish club who should face sanctions for their indiscriminate selling of match tickets.

Uefa has launched an inquiry into the first disturbances to shame an English club inside a stadium since they were allowed to return to the three Continental club competitions in 1990, following their ban after the Heysel disaster in 1987.

Before the first leg, which Chelsea lost 3-0, there were warnings about possible trouble when it was learned Real Zaragoza were selling tickets to English fans at La Romareda Stadium. About 300 bought them on the day of the game, and larger numbers had obtained tickets in London from unofficial sources.

"Why should we face sanctions?" Bates asked. "If that is to happen, it is the Spaniards who should face sanctions. We asked them not to sell tickets to English supporters except through us, but they still did it.

"I can only tell you what the Zaragoza president told me, and that was that our official supporters behaved impeccably. If we are asked we will tell them that the people who caused the trouble were not Chelsea fans."

The violence erupted in an area of the ground designated for "unofficial" visitors. Around 300 fans were involved in clashes with riot police, some tearing out plastic seats before hurling them at the police, who retaliated with a baton charge which left several supporters injured and complaining of rough handling.

About 14 required hospital treatment for minor injuries, as did three police officers. Six supporters were detained before the match, but were later released. One fan remained in a Spanish jail yesterday, and will go before a local magistrate who will decide whether to press charges.

Uefa will decide what action, if any, to take after studying reports from the match referee and their observer. "Chelsea are responsible for all supporters they give tickets to, but if tickets were sold by Zaragoza without checking nationalities, that will be their mistake," said a spokesman.

Mike Parry, spokesman for the Football Association, said the English authorities were used to dealing with the problem, and could help prevent trouble if the host club was willing to act on their advice.

The Spanish police defended their handling of the trouble and Francisco Checa, the Real Zaragoza general secretary, said Spain was a free country, and "there is no reason why we should not have sold the tickets. We are just pleased the incidents had no impact on the game, and did not endanger Real fans."