Greg Dyke, the Football Association chairman, has admitted having “serious concerns” about England’s supporters being vulnerable to repeat attacks from armed gangs of co-ordinated Russian hooligans over the next few days and accused Uefa of not doing enough to protect innocent fans.
In a strongly worded letter to Uefa, seen by the Guardian, Dyke describes as “unacceptable” the lack of segregation that allowed Russian troublemakers to storm an adjacent section and attack England fans at the end of Saturday’s game in Marseille, leading to a stampede to get away and some of the worst scenes ever witnessed at a European Championship.
Dyke’s letter, including a plea for Uefa to instigate high-level talks with the French police, follows an appeal by the England manager, Roy Hodgson, and the captain, Wayne Rooney, for supporters to behave before and after Thursday’s game against Wales in Lens.
Thousands of England fans will be staying 25 miles away in Lille, where Russia play the previous day, and Dyke admits fearing the worst bearing in mind the FA initially encouraged supporters to choose that city for their base. “We have, following consultation with the authorities, advised our supporters without tickets for the match in Lens to congregate there [in Lille], and whilst we will be working hard to positively influence their behaviour we have serious concerns around the security arrangements for the city in the next few days,” he writes. “These concerns are heightened with the knowledge that Russia will play in Lille on Wednesday.
“We know that UK police authorities are stepping up their support on the ground but we would urge you to bring the policing authorities in both Lille and Lens together as soon as possible to ensure there is a co-ordinated and effective plan in place.”
Dyke’s letter is a response to Uefa writing to the FA threatening to throw England out of the competition if there is a repeat of the disturbances that have scarred the opening week of Euro 2016. They were “abhorrent scenes” according to Dyke, welcoming the alcohol ban that has now been imposed on the tournament’s host cities.
However, Dyke takes exception to Uefa’s account of what happened at the end of the 1-1 draw and makes it clear the FA partly hold the organisers responsible for not recognising the potential for disorder. Uefa, he says, has some “serious points” to consider. “The implication in your jointly-addressed letter is that English fans were in part responsible for the terrible incidents at the end of the match with Russia. This is contradicted both by the video evidence and by the fact your independent disciplinary bodies have instigated sanctions only against the Russian football union.
“The only blame apportioned in your letter for the event inside the stadium is to ‘so-called supporters’ when it could be suggested there were other factors involved. We believe the stewarding arrangements in place were unacceptable. Supporters were able to get in with fireworks and flares, and then let them off, and there was insufficient segregation between the Russian and English fans, particularly given the events of the previous two days.
“Having said that, let me be clear we join you in condemning the horrible scenes in Marseille away from the stadium on Thursday, Friday and match-day. A minority of English fans were clearly involved in some of those incidents and that is extremely disappointing to us all, but please also recognise that tens of thousands have behaved in a positive way.”
The FA is now hoping that ticketless England fans choose to stay away from Lille. “As the England manager, I am obviously now very concerned about the threat that is hanging over us and the sanction that could possibly be imposed upon the team,” Hodgson said in a video message. “We worked very hard to get here and we want to stay in the competition. I’m appealing, therefore, to all of our fans – we appreciated your support at the matches, of course, but I’m appealing to you to stay out of trouble to make certain these threats that are being issued are never carried out.”
Rooney added. “We have a big game coming up against Wales and I’d like to ask the fans: ‘Please, if you don’t have a ticket, don’t travel.’ And for fans with tickets: ‘Be safe, be sensible and continue with your great support for the players.’”