Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia over the disturbing scenes inside the Stade Vélodrome, while also warning England they could be thrown out of the tournament if there is a repeat of the violent, chaotic scenes in Marseille’s old port.
But who will discipline Uefa? It is not a case of being wise after the event to point out that England facing Russia in Marseille late on a Saturday night in their first match of the tournament was, at the very least, a completely needless hostage to fortune at a time when the whole of France remains desperately on edge.
As soon as the draw was made in December, just a month after the terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, British and French authorities realised that a return to the scene of clashes between England supporters and locals during the 1998 World Cup was a huge headache.
Everyone knew it and yet nothing was done about it. As has become the way of modern tournaments, as they have become ever more complex and gargantuan, organisers held fast to their policy of scheduling matches into pre-selected slots.
That not only left England facing Russia in Marseille but both sets of fans then decamping to head north at the same time. So Russia will play Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday, before England and Wales meet in the industrial town of Lens – just 25 miles away – a day later.
Not only that, England are facing Wales – with the numbers expected to exceed those who made it to Marseille, given the proximity to Calais – in the smallest city in the tournament.
As such French authorities are planning to virtually shut down the town and restrict entry to ticket holders. Instead England fans were officially advised to head for Lille – where they will immediately run into the Russians again.
“If you’ve not got a ticket, don’t go to Lens. Go to Lille instead, where there’s a bigger fan zone. We know Brits will get where water can’t in terms of sporting events but people will not get in stadiums without a ticket. If you’ve not got a ticket, don’t travel,” was the advice from the assistant chief constable Mark Roberts, the lead for football policing in the UK, before the tournament after a meeting with local organisers.
Lyon – a much bigger city with a new stadium that caters for more than 59,000 – will host a match between Albania and Romania. The complex, toxic brew that led to the distressing scenes in Marseille is not easily unpicked when it comes to apportioning blame.
The English moronic minority who goaded and taunted police and locals? Yes. The terrifyingly tooled up Russian minority who caused serious injury and mayhem in the old port and at the stadium? Definitely. The locals who saw an opportunity for a replay of 1998? Them too.