Russia and England fans converge with Lille fearing ‘dark day’ at Euro 2016

• 4,000 police and emergency services expected on Lille streets
• ‘The town will be in lockdown by the police’

Emergency measures designed to quell the prospect of violence between Russian and English fans were announced on Tuesday amid fears of a “dark day” for the French city of Lille.

With Russia in action on Wednesday and England on Thursday in nearby Lens, a ban on alcohol sales from shops and supermarkets in Lille will run until 6am on Friday. Some 350 bars in the city will be required to close at midnight.

On the day Russia was sanctioned by Uefa over events inside Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday, when their supporters charged at the England section, they were also warned any further instances of hooliganism inside Euro 2016 stadiums would result in immediate disqualification.

As French authorities began attempting to deport some Russian fans identified as being involved in Marseille, there was tension in Lille as an estimated 15,000 Russians began to arrive in the city before their match with Slovakia. Thousands of England and Wales fans also began to arrive before their match in Lens, having been officially advised to stay away from the small industrial city if they did not have a match ticket and instead watch the game at the large fan zone in Lille.

Following the incidents in Marseille Uefa’s executive board warned England and Russia could be kicked out of the tournament if there was any repeat. But after promising that anyone spotted drinking from cans or bottle on the streets would be arrested, the administrative head of the Pas-de-Calais region, the prefect Michel Lalande, also belatedly advised England fans not to arrive until Thursday to avoid “crossing flows” with the Russians. The plea is likely to be far too late to stop thousands of British fans arriving, many of them following the official advice to avoid Lens and head for Lille.

England and Wales fans sang together in bars on Tuesday, including Taverne Flamande opposite the station and there were reports of a brief incident involving two Russian fans who ran into the bar and began causing trouble.

French police detain Russian football fans – video

Lalande said the ban on alcohol sales was designed to stop bottles and cans being used as projectiles, as they had been in Marseille. He said the authorities in Lille were determined to “learn the lessons of elsewhere”.

There were three of days of skirmishes between England fans, police and locals in Marseille, while on the day of the match an estimated 150 organised Russian fans charged at their rivals, leaving several fans seriously injured.

Lalande said “spotters” from the UK and Russian police forces would assist local police. There are expected to be 4,000 police and emergency services on the streets of Lille and approximately 2,400 in Lens, about 17 miles away.

French police keep an eye on football fans gathering near the central station in Lille on Tuesday
French police keep an eye on football fans gathering near the central station in Lille on Tuesday. Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

“We will have a strong police presence with more than 1,200 police officers present in Lens and you can add 1,200 more with the private security that will be mobilised that day,” the regional administration head, Fabienne Buccio, said at a briefing in Arras. Police officers will be around and in the stadium to help separate England and Wales fans in the 35,000 capacity venue.

UK police expect at least 70,000 fans of the two countries to travel for the match. In Lille on Wednesday, plain clothes officers will assist stewards in keeping order inside the stadium for the Russia v Slovakia match. It is after the game that tensions are likely to be highest, when the Russian fans return to Lille and many more England and Wales fans arrive.

Uefa, which has come in for criticism over its scheduling of the matches, acknowledged segregation problems at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome contributed to Russian fans attacking their English rivals after the 1-1 draw.

“We have strengthened the safety systems on the inside of the stadium,” said Buccio, the state prefect for the northern Pas-de-Calais region. “They will be present in the stands ready in order to intervene quickly in the stadium if there are clashes between supporters. There will be reinforced procedures outside. The town will be in lockdown by the police.”

The FA chairman, Greg Dyke, has written to Uefa asking for the safety of England fans to be guaranteed and complaining at its portrayal of events inside the stadium in a letter sent this week. The Football Supporters Federation, which heavily criticised the police over its handling of events in Marseille, has also raised concerns over security arrangements in Lille.

The FA chief executive Martin Glenn has urged fans “to act in a positive and respectful way”. In a letter to members of the England Supporters Travel Club, Glenn wrote: “We recognise that some of you were subjected to acts of violence from rival supporters in the stadium last weekend. It is something we take very seriously and while tens of thousands of you acted impeccably, there was a minority that did not.

“Like the England team, you represent the badge and I urge you to act in a positive and respectful way.”

The Uefa charges against the Russian Football Union related to “crowd disturbances, use of fireworks and racist behaviour” in the Stade Velodrome. Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said he thought the punishment, which also included a €150,000 (£120,000) fine, was unfair but there would be no appeal.

“The fine is enormous as the Russian Football Union is a non-commercial organisation. What does this have to do with the team? It is not guilty of anything,” said Mutko, who initially downplayed the seriousness of the incidents in the stadium but later admitted some fans had brought “shame” on the nation.

The Russia striker Artem Dzyuba said England fans were no angels and blame must be shared “50-50”. He also said there was a “political agenda” among the British media to demonise Russian fans in order to have the country stripped of the 2018 World Cup.

On Tuesday, French authorities began the process of deporting Russian fans from the country, having identified 29 people who were involved in clashes. Police stopped a bus in the town of Mandelieu near Cannes, carrying fans on their way to Lille.

On Monday, six British men appeared in court and were given jail sentences ranging from one to three months after being involved in violent incidents.

Before Uefa’s announcement, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said: “Violations of the law have been committed by fans from various nations who have gone on rampages in Marseille and some other places. It’s absolutely unacceptable, and we certainly expect our citizens to respect the country’s laws. Regrettably, fans from various nations have taken part in those rampages, regrettably including Russia.”

The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, has called on European governments to improve police cooperation after the violent clashes in Marseille.

“What happened in Marseille is absolutely unacceptable. Europe can and must do more to prevent this kind of violence. Governments must spare no effort”, he said.


Owen Gibson in Lille

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