England have been warned by Uefa that they risk elimination from the European Championships, along with Russia, if their supporters are involved in a repeat of the violence which has left 19 Britons hospitalised in Marseille.
England supporters were set upon before the Euro 2016 game by a gang of 300 Russians armed with weapons, gum shields and martial arts fighting gloves on Saturday afternoon. There is also at least one witness to England's Danny Rose, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker being racially abused by Russia fans during the teams' 1-1 draw in Stade Velodrome, though the Football Association is understood not to have raised that with Uefa yet.
Both England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Wayne Rooney will issue statements in the coming days ahead of the Group B encounter with Wales to urge fans to behave in a bid to avoid the ugly scenes witnessed in Marseille.
However, European football's governing body has directed a threat of expulsion in letters to the FA, as well as the Russian Football Union.
Uefa Executive Committee's expression of "disgust" to the FA over the clashes was accompanied by a description of the "so-called supporters of the national teams of England and Russia."
The FA are powerless to directly influence the behaviour of fans, but chief executive Martin Glenn issued a strongly-worded criticism of England supporters tonight.
Glenn said: "We take this letter from Uefa with the utmost seriousness. We understand the potential implications of our supporters’ actions and wholly accept that every effort needs to be made by the FA to positively urge them to act in a responsible and respectful way. Violent scenes like those witnessed over the weekend in Marseille have no place in football, nor society as a whole."
Thugs wearing black T-shirts carried bum bags containing equipment for an organised assault when they arrived in Marseille on Saturday afternoon. They seized upon the chaos being caused by French gang violence which had already broken out in the centre of Marseille – between rival fans of Olympique Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain – to launch indiscriminate attacks on English fans.
English supporters literally ran for the lives but the Russians outnumbered them and were quicker and stronger, unleashing extraordinary violence on them using any available weapon. British police, who have no jurisdiction on French soil and can only attempt to moderate the way fans behave to assist the French, were caught up in the violence.
The first Briton to be felled by the Russian was given first aid by a British officer. British police also provided bandages and medical equipment to fans.
The Russians seemed to have been organised around individual clubs. Their black T-shirts carried the names of the Lokomotiv Moscow and CSKA Moscow sides.
Uefa's initial statement today had suggested that it suspected Russian fans of being the architects of the scenes of extraordinary violence and said it viewed the clashes before the game with “utter disgust.” The letter to the FA conflicted with that.
The governing body has major questions of its own to answer – including why it had allowed a match which carried serious risk of violence to be staged on the Mediterranean coast at 9pm on a Saturday evening and why there was pitifully little segregation to prevent Russian fans effectively chasing English out of the stadium after the game.
But Uefa's executive committee has turned events onto both teams, warning both football associations that "irrespective of any decisions taken by the independent disciplinary bodies relating to incidents inside the stadium – it will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions on the Football Association (FA) and the Russian Football Union (RFU), including the potential disqualification of their respective teams from the tournament, should such violence occur again."
Uefa's statement added: "We urge both the FA and the RFU to appeal to their supporters to behave in a responsible and respectful manner."
Neither British nor French police had any way of influencing the timing of the fixture. It had been made clear as soon as the Euro 2016 draw was made that the draw as fixed and matches would be designated times and locations according to the way teams’ names came out of the hat.
British police are moving to limit the potential of England supporters to arrive in France drunk by making all Eurostar services out of St Pancras international no-alcohol before Thursday's game against Wales in Lens. There will also be extra checks on luggage to prevent alcohol and weapons being carried.
The London-based intelligence gathering centre setup by the UK Football Policing Unit will use images from media and social media to attempt to help identify any perpetrators of the violence carried out on English fans. The same material will be used to apply for banning orders for England fans, where appropriate.
There is no sense that this problem will be isolated to Marseille. The authorities have suggested England fans travel to Lille to drink before Thursday’s game against Wales, because of an alcohol ban in nearby Lens, where the game takes place. Russia play Slovakia on Wednesday - in Lille.
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