The FA must act af­ter Eng­land fans’ shame­ful acts

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT MULLEN

There has largely been si­lence, only the noise of glass smash­ing on to flesh, the hiss of tear gas or the whine com­ing from po­lice sirens

WE shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the streets, we shall fight in the stands, we shall fight out­side Pierre’s wine bar. We shall fight to bring shame on our coun­try.

These, of course, are not quite the words that Win­ston Churchill de­liv­ered to a nation from the floor of the House of Com­mons back on June 4, 1940. Seventy-six years ago the nation was in the depths of war. Three gen­er­a­tions on and Eng­land are still bat­tling on for­eign shores, but in a way that would surely leave the late prime min­is­ter spin­ning in his grave.

While na­tional pride drove on the troops in the Se­cond World War – hooli­gan­ism, ar­ro­gance, al­co­hol and vengeance seem to be the or­der of the day in what has been a damn­ing few days for thou­sands of “fans” ri­ot­ing their way through Mar­seille.

Since Thurs­day our tele­vi­sion screens, news­pa­pers and so­cial me­dia feeds have been filled with truly hor­ren­dous scenes of vi­o­lence that make the “over ex­u­ber­ance” in the wake of the Scot­tish Cup fi­nal look like an au­di­tion for It’s A Knock­out.

In an age of tech­nol­ogy that turns ev­ery foot­ball fan with a smart­phone in their pocket into a video jour­nal­ist, hun­dreds if not thou­sands of clips have flooded Face­book and Twit­ter. One showed an el­derly lo­cal stand­ing in the mid­dle of a square be­fore a cow­ardly punch to the head from be­hind ren­dered him mo­tion­less on the blood­stained pave­ment. An­other de­picted more than 100 English sup­port­ers hurl­ing plas­tic chairs, glass bot­tles and bricks up a side street to­wards a group of Rus­sian yobs who ap­peared to also be shar­ing the same brain cell.

Be­fore we go any fur­ther, it would be re­miss of me to lay all of the blame on our neigh­bours south of the Bor­der over a shame­ful few days. UEFA have opened pro­ceed­ings against the Rus­sians for the events in­side the Stade Velo­drome to­wards the end of their 1-1 draw with Eng­land. The sight of Eng­land fans scam­per­ing to safety while a vig­i­lante group of op­pos­ing sup­port­ers surged their way across a rather men­ac­ing piece of tar­pau­lin has quite rightly been con­demned by Euro­pean foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body. The fact large gangs of Rus­sians ram­pag­ing the streets of Mar­seille, many with their faces masked, just hours be­fore kick-off should have acted as a warn­ing that it may have been an idea to pro­vide some sort of seg­re­ga­tion in­side the sta­dium. Just a thought.

But I di­gress. The vi­o­lent end to Satur­day night’s game is what fi­nally spurred UEFA into ac­tion. One can only imag­ine if mat­ters would have es­ca­lated to that de­gree if they, as well as others, had acted ap­pro­pri­ately when they should have.

The state­ment from the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion last night failed to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­tions of an el­e­ment of their sup­port, nor did it, as UEFA re­quested, make a plea to their own fans to show some in­tel­li­gence and be­have.

For The FA to take such a back seat in what has been a shame­ful week­end is noth­ing short of a dis­grace, and it will be intriguing to see what they do now UEFA have warned both na­tions that they could face dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from the tour­na­ment if we get a re­peat per­for­mance. You’d not bet against it.

Af­ter all, we are deal­ing with a breed of sup­porter that goes to a coun­try that has been a tar­get for ter­ror­ists and sings about Is­lamic State. It beg­gars be­lief. In 2000, Eng­land fans bat­tled with po­lice, while only two years ago in Brazil of­fi­cers had to step in dur­ing their last game against Costa Rica.

The topic of strict li­a­bil­ity has been on the agenda in Scot­land over the last few weeks in the wake of those worrying scenes at Ham­p­den last month, and events in the last few days will only make it even more of a topic point. And quite rightly so.

It is not enough for The FA to say they con­demn acts of bam­pot­tery while be­ing con­spic­u­ous by their si­lence in terms of try­ing to ap­peal to their own flock.

De­spite who the fin­ger of blame is be­ing pointed at for start­ing the whole thing off – it varies from Eng­land, Rus­sia to the po­lice – a fail­ure to ac­cept any sort of wrong­do­ing smacks of the same ar­ro­gance shown by those caus­ing havoc in Mar­seille.

At do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional level the be­hav­iour of the Bri­tish foot­ball fan abroad has been a source of em­bar­rass­ment for decades. Enough is enough. These cretins need to feel the force of au­thor­ity both in­side and out­side of foot­ball with the same ruth­less­ness demon­strated with the blow that left that help­less French OAP un­con­scious.

Hid­ing be­hind the ex­cuse spouted by foot­ball peo­ple that “you’d be pun­ish­ing the wrong peo­ple” by send­ing a team home is surely no longer rel­e­vant. We went be­yond that the mo­ment a Rus­sian ca­sual or an English yob stepped across the bor­der.

There was lead­er­ship shown in that Churchill speech in 1940. So far, there has been lit­tle ev­i­dence of it from The FA.

All we can hope is UEFA stay loyal to their world and rid foot­ball of this cancer that threat­ens to turn a global showcase of sport into a war zone.

TO­MOR­ROW Matthew Lind­say

UN­DER­BELLY: The truly dis­grace­ful side to in­ter­na­tional foot­ball has reared its ugly head again this month

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