UEFA set to punish Russia for fan violence

Paris (AFP) – UEFA will on Tuesday announce a first verdict against Russia for the football unrest caused by their fans at Euro 2016 while England questioned security for high-risk matches this week.

A French court, meanwhile, ordered prison terms of up to a year against 10 men — six Britons, three French and one Austrian — found guilty of violence around the England-Russia match in Marseille on Saturday.

Street battles have overshadowed fears of a terrorist attack and strikes which marred the build-up to the month-long European Championship finals expected to draw two million visitors to France.

Amid mounting accusations against Russian fans, UEFA charged the Russian Football Union over the disturbances, racist chanting and fireworks thrown at the Marseille stadium.

Russia could be fined, reprimanded or have points deducted from their qualifying campaign for the Euro 2020 tournament as because of the acts of their fans.

UEFA has also threatened Russia and England with disqualification from Euro 2016 if there is a repeat of the violence in France.

The English FA protested in a letter to UEFA that a distinction should be drawn between the two sets of fans as only Russia have been charged over their conduct.

English and Russian fans fought pitch battles in the streets of Marseille, but inside the Stade Velodrome Russian fans crossed a barrier to charge English supporters, including women and children.

FA chairman Greg Dyke raised “serious concerns” about security around England’s and Russia’s next games.

Russia play Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday where England fans are expected to gather ahead of their country’s game against Wales on the following day in the nearby city of Lens.

“We have serious concerns around the security arrangements for the city (Lille) in the next few days,” Dyke said in the letter to UEFA.

– Rooney appeal –

He called for an urgent meeting of the Lille and Lens police authorities to draw up an “effective” security plan.

England captain Wayne Rooney and coach Roy Hodgson have already made a video plea for the country’s fans to avoid fighting in Lille.

“I’m appealing to you to stay out of trouble,” Hodgson said. “We really desperately want to stay in the competition.”

British authorities have also sent extra police to France.

Dyke also said security in the Marseille stadium on Saturday had been “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,” he said.

France’s Sports Minister Patrick Kanner in turn criticised what he called “a regrettable lack of cooperation” by Russia over the actions of their fans.

– ‘Well prepared’ Russians –

A French prosecutor said 150 “extremely well-prepared” Russians evaded arrest in the mass brawls on Saturday which left 35 injured.

The head of Britain’s policing for the championships, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said troublemakers “targeted England fans in an orchestrated way”.

A court in Marseille sentenced one French man to one year in prison for having attacked three people in the fighting.

David Palmeri was said to have kicked his victims and hit them with his belt and fists.

Another Frenchman, Christopher Andre, stole a British flag from an English fan and wrapped it around his shoulders as he threw cans at police.

The six Britons were jailed for up to three months.

Ian Hepworth, a 41-year-old psychiatric nurse, was sentenced to three months in prison for throwing a beer bottle at police. Alexander Booth, a 20-year-old chef, was jailed for two months.

Hepworth told the court: “My job is helping people. I did something stupid.”

An English man in his fifties who was apparently beaten on the head with an iron bar in the violence remains in a critical condition.

A fan from Northern Ireland died after falling eight metres (25 feet) from a wall overlooking the seafront in Nice. Police said it was an accident.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said 150 known Russian troublemakers had taken part in the violence, without naming any. They were “prepared for hyper-fast and hyper-violent acts”, Brice said.

British police coordinator Roberts said the Russians in Marseille were wearing gum shields, martial arts gloves and carrying knives.

“We know that troublemakers targeted England fans in an orchestrated way inflicting serious injuries,” he said in a statement.

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