`The security people couldn't handle it'

A senior Irish official who witnessed the disorder blames inadequate policing
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The Independent Online
Inadequate security and a failure to properly segregate fans led to last night's rioting at the England-Republic of Ireland match, according to a senior official from a FAI Bord Gais National League, who was there. He gave the Independent his account of events.

"In the Evening Press it was reported that a man was stabbed the night before by two English fans who had previously been deported from two other countries. Surely this was enough warning there would be trouble. On the radio on the way to the match I heard the head of security of the FAI answering concerns that there would be trouble. He said there were only about 30 or 40 troublemakers and that they were being shadowed. He said everything was under control.

But there was already a lot of resentment from the Irish fans because of the ticket allocation. Ten per cent had gone to the England fans - about 4,500 - and the Irish fans weren't happy. When I got there I saw some of my friends wearing stewards uniforms. They were stewarding for the night. I know they had no training. But they said they got a few quid for it and a chance to see the match.

The English fans were on the top and bottom tier of the West Stand and the Irish fans were right next to them. There was no real gap, no wire and no police separation. That was the area where the trouble broke out. Bearing in mind the bad feeling I thought there would be complete separation between them.

When the thing blew up after the Ireland goal, the police got to the West Stand reasonably quickly but they couldn't get up the stairs to the top tier quickly enough. They were being bombarded by chairs and pieces of wood. There were police in the stand already, but not enough to quell any disturbance. If it had been a Premiership League match there would have been police with dogs, the lot.

It was about 10 minutes before they got it under control. It seemed like an unusually long time. It wasn't fans fighting each other, it was England fans deciding to cause trouble and the security people couldn't handle it. In the Lansdowne Road pubs the night before, the pub owners didn't want the fans in the pubs. There was a vicious element. I mean these publicans are used to rugby crowds and the like but this was a different sort of fan.

I think the FAI was complacent and obviously felt that there was a new atmosphere among fans - they'd never allow God Save The Queen to be played before. But there was always this undercurrent of tension."

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