Sheffield football fans have condemned thugs who marred England’s opening game of Euro 2016 with violent clashes.
French riot police used tear gas and water cannons to separate groups of English, Russian and French hooligans fighting on the streets of Marseille since the start of the tournament on Friday.
And there were violent scenes in the Stade Vélodrome after the final whistle of England’s one-all draw with Russia on Saturday, as people in the Russian supporters’ section appeared to charge English fans.
Sheffield Wednesday fan Liam Lowe, 24, of Heeley, was at the game. He said: “We managed to avoid the worst of the trouble but the atmosphere inside the ground at full time was horrible.
“We witnessed Russian fans jumping the segregation to attack England fans from across the ground it was shocking to watch - we were asking where the police were. They were nonexistent inside the ground.”
“On the whole it’s been a good atmosphere the majority of English, French locals and Russians have been great.
“The trouble has been blown out of proportion a bit but there were black-shirted Russian men with their faces covered who you could tell were there for one reason.
“When it comes to football violence, there’s no countries or teams it’s just stupid people.”
Sheffield United fan Russ Hunt, 37, from Intake, said: “For most of the time the atmosphere has been great and good spirited bit there were a group of Russian and French hooligans intent on causing trouble which led to the scenes everyone has seen on TV.
“Getting to the stadium was chaos. We had gates closed in front of us which could have easily led to a crush when the police decided to lob some tear gas in for good measure when there were no signs of any trouble.
“Luckily we were in a different stand in the stadium when the trouble started at the end of the match.
“We went back to the port after the match and it was a pretty terrifying experience. French and Russian hooligans trying to cause trouble with the England fans. Riot police intervened but it wasn’t fun.
“To make things worse our flight home has been cancelled due to the Air France pilot strike so we are currently at a hotel at the airport courtesy of the airline.”
A Sheffield United fan from the Worksop area, who asked not to be named, said the police presence was not big enough. He said: “It was unbelievable yesterday. I expected a little bit of trouble but not to that extent.
“We arrived in Marseille harbour from our hotel at around 1pm to a busy crowd. There wasn’t any trouble for a while until it all kicked off a few streets behind where we were, when apparently Russians come in force to cause havoc.
“That was the first time of many where the French police were terrible.
“We moved on from where the trouble was only to find more trouble 30 minutes later, rumoured to be the Marseille ‘ultras’. The police came and fired tear gas into the main streets, where families, women and children were forced to flee.
“It seemed that the police were 30 minutes behind everything that happened.
“We walked to the ground roughly around two hours before kick off. All the way down to the ground there wasn’t a police force to be seen until outside the stadium. Two of our lads who were five minutes behind us got jumped walking to the ground but luckily only come away with a few bruises and cuts, despite getting kicked and punched by outnumbered opposition.
“I expected a tight security around the ground, to which there was very little. To get in the ground, I had a very brief search. Inside the ground there wasn’t a problem until after the final whistle where the well-publicised brawl broke out.
“Even after the game, walking back into the city there was no police presence down the long, dark streets. Trying to catch a taxi was almost impossible. After booking a taxi online outside a random hotel, another fight happened with chairs and bottles being thrown everywhere.
“At that point, a local hotel receptionist let us get out of the way in their lobby and locked the doors until our taxi came.”
European football governing body Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union after Saturday’s match. It handed down charges for alleged crowd disturbances, racist behaviour and the setting off of fireworks by Russian fans.
Uefa also announced it would take steps to strengthen security at match venues after the embarrassing scenes at Olympique Marseille’s ground.
The disorder at the 67,000-capacity ground came after a third day of violent clashes between rival fans and locals on the streets of Marseille left one England fan critically ill in hospital and up to 20 others hurt.
A Uefa spokesman said: “Uefa expresses its utter disgust for the violent clashes that occurred in the city centre of Marseille, and its serious concern for the incidents at the end of the match inside Stade Velodrome.
“This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and has no place in football.
“Uefa acknowledges that there were segregation issues at Stade Velodrome and will implement corrective measures to strengthen the deployment of security personnel at stadiums, in close collaboration with local authorities.”
The incident raised serious questions about French security at a time when the country is on high alert after November’s terrorist attacks on Paris.
The scenes from Marseille were described by the FA as ‘terrible’ as it called on the local authorities to deal with the perpetrators swiftly.
Footage emerged of fans from Russia and England marauding through the streets, with people being punched and kicked as they lay on the floor.
The streets were carpeted with glass and chairs were seen smeared with blood as the police struggled to contain the violence.
Earlier, water cannon and tear gas were used as fist fights and bottle-throwing broke out between the England supporters and their Russian and French counterparts in Marseille’s Old Port.
Rebekah Vardy, the new wife of Leicester City and Sheffield-born striker Jamie Vardy, tweeted that she was caught up in the ‘horrific’ violence before kick-off.
She wrote: “That has to be up there with the worst experience EVER at an away game! Teargassed for no reason, caged and treated like animals! Shocking!”
There were also reports of attacks on Northern Ireland football fans by local “ultras” in Nice, where the side will play Poland later today (Sunday, June 12).