Absolute 80s

I’m sure we all witnessed the disturbing scenes in and around Marseille during the early stages of Euro 2016, and my thoughts go out to any fan who’s has been hurt in anyway during these recent troubles.  Fans from any country deserve to return safely from a football match; it’s a game full of passion, a game where you are full of pride in your team –  it’s a game from which one should never return harmed in any way whatsoever.

England fans have yet again brought shame to our country; and anyone who tries to defend the antics of these hooligans is frankly an idiot.  Images of England fans fighting in the streets, throwing chairs, intimidating the Police, and causing havoc cannot be defended. It not only threatened to get our country ejected from the tournament (although we can discuss the merits of such a prohibition in the wake of the Iceland fiasco), but it’s also ruining our fragile reputation around the world as a country that has cleaned up its act and resolved its hooligan problem.

I completely agree that the English were not the only ones running riot in the streets of France; the Russians look like a very nasty, organised group of trouble makers – hell-bent on seriously injuring rival fans. The differences between the two sets of ‘hooligans are that the English get tanked up, sing songs, and THEN then start kicking off.  These Russians carry out sober, premeditated attacks on indiscriminate groups with the intent of inflicting serious harm. Images of Russian supporters displaying inverted crosses of St. George flags as a spoil of war stir feelings of anger and revenge in the most placid of Englishman – God only knows how provocative these images will have been to the English hooligan.

Worryingly, this doesn’t come as a shock to the majority of football fans in this country, as before the Euro’s there has once again been a steady increase in disturbances involving domestic clubs.  The media question why the Russian supporters were allowed to break through segregation and attack the English fans, and yet in our own national stadium Millwall fans did just the same 2-weeks earlier; as they attacked Barnsley fans.  Liverpool fans fought Seville fans in the stands at the Europa Cup final because there was little segregation there either.  Poor organisation and planning is not an open invitation to fight, Liverpool fans just took advantage of it – not unlike the Russians.

We have witnessed Hibernian fans invading the pitch to celebrate their recent cup win, but where does it state that to celebrate a victory you have to rip up turf, pull the goalpost to pieces, and attack the opposition’s fans? I do fear it is starting to get out of hand once more. Hull fans have a pitch invasion and square up to opposition players and managers, Millwall just want to get at the opposition fans – it’s happening at all levels.

The French Police have come in for criticism for failing to prevent the trouble, and failing to protect the fans. Where were our police, and what protection did they offer the Man Utd team as West Ham fans bricked the team coach on arrival to the ground?  Innocent fans being attacked in stadiums, players not safe on the pitch or having to cower on the floor of a coach for safety, running battles in the streets or in grounds  – all throw-backs to the 80s, and a time we had all hoped had passed. Nobody wants a return to those bad old days, yet there is a growing trend of hooliganism in our country, a trend we have to stamp out.

Some of the scenes in France have been horrific, and the Russians appear to have taken hooliganism to another level, and I hope that the English hooligans don’t learn from this and bring such ‘tactics’ back to our shores.

Football is buoyant at the moment. English football is full of Sky’s cash, as the Premier League is the most attractive and lucrative in the world. We have stadiums full of passionate fans – both home and away, teams full of world-class players wanting to play in front of our sell-out crowds. If this violence is allowed to grow and continue it will only serve to drive fans away, and if this is replicated throughout the the leagues how long do you think Sky will continue to invest?

Let’s be clear.  This is our fault. Our fans are causing trouble once more, and it’s down to us to resolve the problem. The Russians don’t care about us, and the French will just want us out of their country (and Europe as it now seems) as soon as possible. We have to deal firmly with these issues and ensure we don’t have a return to the 80’s, and end up playing in stadiums that resemble a ghost town.

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