Violent scenes could impact on World Cup bid

England will hope their 2018 World Cup bid has not been derailed at the 11th hour by the violence which erupted at the end of Birmingham's Carling Cup win over Aston Villa last night.

More than a thousand Blues supporters invaded the pitch after their side's 2-1 win at St Andrew's and confronted Villa fans situated in the Gil Merrick Stand at the other end of the stadium.

A flare appeared to be thrown into the section housing the Villa supporters although it was then tossed backwards and forwards between the rival factions.

Seats were also ripped out and used as missiles along with other objects.

The Football Association immediately pledged to carry out a full investigation and called for any identified culprits to be banned.

But the scenes which will have been beamed around the world were the last thing England would have wanted in the final hours before the destination of the 2018 World Cup is decided in Zurich.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish called it a return to the "dark ages" - a reference to the trouble which blighted the game in this country in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The police presence in and around St Andrew's had been swelled to nearly 500 officers for the first mid-week meeting between the clubs since ugly scenes seven years ago.

An FA spokesperson said: "We wholly condemn the actions of any individuals who have been involved in the scenes of disorder at St Andrew's.

"The FA abhors acts of violent behaviour and we urge the clubs and authorities to identify any individuals involved in disorder, and impose the stiffest available sanctions, including banning orders.

"The FA will fully investigate the matter in conjunction with the appropriate authorities.

"The whole of English football has worked hard to eradicate scenes of disorder from our game.

"Home Office figures this week showing a significant drop in arrests at the many thousands of football matches held every week, the majority of which still pass trouble free."

Birmingham have also promised a full investigation in co-operation with the FA and police into the ugly scenes.

A club statement read: "Birmingham City Football Club is disappointed with scenes at St Andrew's following the Carling Cup tie against Aston Villa.

"The club does not tolerate the breaking of any stadium rules and will conduct a full investigation in conjunction with the FA and police and take appropriate action.

"A meeting will be held at St Andrew's on Thursday to investigate the matter further."

Blues acting chairman Peter Pannu said: "Whilst we are very happy with the victory, we are extremely disappointed with the events that took place after the game.

"I promise there will be an impartial investigation by the club as we do not condone the embarrassing actions of certain individuals.

"An urgent meeting has been called involving all parties concerned and we will of course support the football authorities and police in this investigation."

Villa also pledged full co-operation with the FA and relevant authorities.

A club statement read: "Following the scenes in the aftermath of the Carling Cup quarter-final at St Andrew's, the club will co-operate fully with the FA in its investigation in conjunction with the appropriate authorities."

McLeish and Villa assistant-manager Gary McAllister believe the trouble will not damage England's hopes of staging the 2018 tournament.

McLeish said: "What happened takes us back to the dark ages but I don't think that will affect the World Cup bid.

"I'm sure that has already been decided and let's hope England get it because they deserve it."

McAllister said afterwards: "Before the game there were lots of meetings between the police, players and management groups saying the world would be watching this game because of what was happening tomorrow (the World Cup bid).

"But I don't think what happened will affect the World Cup bid. It is an outstanding candidate for the World Cup."

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