Poland vows to tackle 'shocking' violence ahead of Euro 2012

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The Independent Football

Polish authorities yesterday apologised for the fan violence that has plagued the Euro 2012 joint hosts in recent months and pledged to stamp it out before next year's finals.

Exactly a year to the day before the tournament begins in Warsaw, former Poland international Grzegorz Lato, now head of the Polish football association, used a press conference attended by a raft of international reporters to bemoan the outbreaks of hooliganism that have besmirched the image of Polish football.

Unlike his Ukrainian counterparts, who have played everything with a straight bat at a series of briefings during the past three days, Lato – who played in three World Cups – was up front about the biggest issue facing his country.

"I am shocked by our hooligan fans," he said in the presence of Uefa officials and national and local politicians. "In my career as a footballer I never experienced anything like that. There were no fights in stadiums and I can only apologise."

Polish fans have gained a growing reputation as some of the most badly behaved in Europe. The domestic cup final on 4 May was marred by a pitch invasion, while there was also trouble in Lithuania during an international friendly earlier this year. "One of our most important tasks is security," said Lato. "We will be implementing an ambitious plan aimed at wiping out hooliganism."

The Uefa general secretary, Gianni Infantino, said it was important to accentuate the positive but admitted crowd trouble could not be swept under the carpet. "The eyes of the world will be on Poland," he said. "It's an issue we are treating very seriously and have to tackle it."

Building work on three of the four Polish stadiums being used for Euro 2012 is still behind schedule, most notably the revamped national stadium in the capital, which was due be opened with a celebration friendly against Germany on 6 September, a match that now seems certain to be switched elsewhere, probably to Gdansk.

"Maybe three of the stadiums will be a few weeks late but we still have a year to go," Infantino said. "There have been a few hiccups on the way and I have lost a few hairs worrying about the state of preparations. But a few delays will not alter our faith."