By Tony Attwood
…weeping children in replica shirts stumble about with their frightened parents looking for nonexistent transport, peering down side streets, plotting escape routes from the sudden spurts and burps of violence that flared again through the night.
The Métro was running, but not the stop near the stadium, and without any guidance on where to join it. Taxi drivers had understandably vanished. No buses ran, or at least none were to be seen. Sirens blared past the gaggles of temporarily dispossessed, heading for the violence in the port area.
Several British citizens are still in hospital. Social media pictures have flashed around of one man being kicked repeatedly in the head as he lay on the floor. Police had to resuscitate an unconscious 51-year-old man who witnesses suggested had been attacked with a small axe.
That is from the Guardian this morning, a newspaper that has suddenly, after 18 months of deliberate ignorance, has woken up. “A group of violent Russian men came to Marseille with the idea of attacking English people. A few English people were already acting boorishly and violently. Local gangs enjoyed prodding the hive and taking a penance on their own streets.”
And one has to say, “what did you expect?”
It is all very well saying Russia fans didn’t clamber across into the England section. They just ran through an empty space. These were two solid, packed-out opposing sections. Before kick-off jaws dropped – well, this jaw anyway – at the sight of nothing but a walkway between them. Violence seemed inevitable.
If that is true, then all I can say to Barney Ronay, senior sports writer for the Guardian, what the hell have you been doing for the past 20 years?
At least Mr Ronay has the grace to admit that “the same thing happened just a few weeks ago at another Uefa match at St Jakob-Park in Basel, where Liverpool and Sevilla fans were separated only by a handful of heroic stewards in orange bibs.”
I suppose at least I must give the Guardian some credit for publishing that as its lead football story. The Telegraph has, “The Football Association pleads with fans to behave as England and Russia are threatened with expulsion from Euro 2016” while the Independent goes with, “England fans must look at themselves after Marseille, its embarrassing”
The Mail has “Half-naked, paralytic, leering at women, taking over a town square like an occupying army – that’s why England fans repulse the world”.
What is it that people don’t understand about Uefa?
How can the media express surprise that the ground at which England played Russia had no proper segregation?
This is Uefa, the organisation that fined Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for showing a slogan on his pants while Porto had to pay only £16,700 for their fans’ racist abuse earlier this season.
This is Uefa which is in the process of banning Greek teams face a ban from international competition because in an attempt to control violence at football matches, Greece’s Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis having refused to rescind an earlier decision to cancel remaining Greek Cup contests because of the fear of violence.
This is Uefa that has just recently had to dismiss its President for corruption, after years of hiding behind protests of internal secrecy.
This is Uefa which in 2013 finally agreed to do something about racism after years of handing out tiny fines for racism to clubs, and then merely lifted the fines from pathetic to derisory.
This is Uefa that fined Dynamo Kyiv fined €15,000 for fans’ racist abuse of Everton players March 2015. That’s get tough for you.
Uefa have threatened both England and Russia with disqualification from Euro 2016 following the violence. And the media in the UK takes this all very seriously, as if this is reasonable stance.
This is what you get at Uefa events, because the organisers are only interested in exploitation and money making. But the media and the FA go along with them ploughing vast amounts of money into Uefa. If the British government stopped funding the FA then the FA would not have the money to pay Uefa for entry into the tournament. If the newspapers and broadcasters stopped giving wall to wall coverage the importance of the event would be reduced (remembering that in the years when England have not qualified the UK media has hardly shown games at all.)
Then if another channel takes over, they can be hounded for trading on violence and corruption.
And does Uefa accept any blame? What do you think? Here is what they said.
“We urge both the FA and the RFU to appeal to their supporters to behave in a responsible and respectful manner.”
And the media go along with this.
After years and years of bowing down to racism, and failing to take action about everything from violence to corruption, Uefa is fortified by the fact that not at single country has protested that things have gone too far. Everyone knows that international matches have a potential for violence and there needs to be the highest level of security inside and outside the grounds.
So what do we have? Three days of running battles in the streets, and Uefa consistently saying that it can only act in relation to events that take place inside the stadium.
All Uefa ever has to do is say to any football organisation offering to take on a tournament – you are 100% responsible for security. If it fails anywhere, you will be ejected from this and the next tournament.
It is so simple, why not?
We have also known for a long time that the Uefa plans of which matches are played where is ludicrous. Playing England against Russia in Marseille? Oh what a surprise, there is a problem. Oh but never mind because Russia is ok. They are the hosts of the next world cup so they must be ok. And anyway Russia was fined €30,000 after fans racially insulted the Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie so that will jolly well have taught them a lesson.
Oh yes and Russia was fined in 2012 for a fan carrying a national flag across the pitch. There was mass violence in the city before that game in Poland, but they were outside the stadium, so it didn’t matter.
Vitaly Mutko, the Russia sports minister who persuaded Fifa to give Russia the world cup said of Marseille, “There was no clash … That’s being exaggerated, in fact everything is fine here. When the match ended, there was no barrier between the fans. The British were upset, of course, but it all quickly dissolved. Such matches should be organised properly. It is necessary to separate the fans.” So we have total denial.
In all the reports there is something horribly pathetic about the response of the English fans mixed up in the trouble. Here’s one report
“You could easily see who they were. They had black T-shirts with Russian writing on, and were all extremely muscular. They didn’t muck about. They picked out English blokes to attack, and then ran off when the police arrived.”
And again one has to say, “what did you expect?” There are places in the world where it is not safe to go, so sane sensible people don’t go there. For example, I have been to Libya, but I choose not to go there at the moment. Ditto Egypt. Ditto Arsenal away matches at Tottenham (although as I have said before, that is because of the way the entrance to the stadium is arranged and police, not because of Tottenham fans).
Everyone makes choices, and we live by our choices. The FA spent public money getting the England team to this tournament. Uefa took vast amounts of money and used it to line their own pockets. The media said nothing about it until they more or less had to, and even now, the story is hardly even to be seen in some papers.
If the media did not endless bow down to the FA and Uefa, we could cut off the funding to Uefa and stop this violence now. If the government stopped funding the FA, we would not be in this mess.
In the words of Untold’s Shakesperian insult of the day (which appears on the home page of Untold each morning), and directed at Uefa, and the media that supports it…
Out you mad headed aped.
- Why is football on TV and radio so patronising, ignorant and irrelevant, from the fans’ point of view?
- The aftermath: England media blame the Russian media, Twitter blames Tottenham, I avoid the local police
- Why is it that when Arsenal goes for a player something always goes wrong?
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
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- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
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