Turkey escape with fine after crowd trouble

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The Independent Online

Turkey escaped an order to play future matches behind closed doors and instead were fined just over £22,000 by the game's European governing body, Uefa, yesterday following crowd violence during their Euro 2004 qualifier against Macedonia on 11 June in Istanbul.

Turkey escaped an order to play future matches behind closed doors and instead were fined just over £22,000 by the game's European governing body, Uefa, yesterday following crowd violence during their Euro 2004 qualifier against Macedonia on 11 June in Istanbul.

There were fears from Turkey that they might be forced to play their remaining home qualifier against England on 11 October in an empty stadium. But Uefa chose not to impose such a penalty. The Turkish federation immediately announced that the potentially fraught game against England will be held at the Istanbul home of Fenerbahce.

A statement from Uefa said that the fine was handed down to the Turkish Football Association "for lack of order and security in the stadium". The statement added: "The control and disciplinary body expressed their concern over the improper conduct of the local supporters and the potential risk that occurred to the match participants [players and officials]. The committee also took account of the Turkish FA's recent track record on disciplinary matters and the circumstances of the incidents under investigation."

During the Group Seven match against the Macedonians, which Turkey won 3-2, numerous missiles were thrown onto the pitch. The Macedonia midfielder Sasko Lazarevski was struck on the head and riot police had to form a shield to protect any visiting player taking a corner.

By indicating that they have focused on Turkey's "recent track record", the disciplinary panel appears to have based its verdict on Turkey's history of crowd behaviour in their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign. Their only prior offence resulted in a £5,000 fine after a firework was thrown from the stands.

However, if the panel had opted to look back further Turkey could have been in real trouble. In 1999, they were fined £10,000 for the throwing of fireworks and a pitch incursion against Ireland, and were punished three times in 1998 for disciplinary offences.

The Macedonian Football Association did not avoid punishment for the incident in last month's match. It was fined £4,445 for the disturbances, after Uefa decided that the Macedonian players had celebrated their goals in an over-the-top manner, provoking the local crowd into launching missiles onto the pitch.

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