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Sunday, October 26, 1997



Sport

Italian police "deliberately intimidated" English fans

The FA investigating committee

The English Football Association has laid the blame for crowd trouble at the Italy-England World Cup qualifying match firmly at the feet of the Italian Authorities.

Their 50 page report accused the Italian authorities of "deliberate intimidation and sometimes extreme provocation"

The FA said UK police officers who travelled to the Italian capital for the crucial World Cup qualifying match were "at best under utilised, at worst deliberately ignored" by their Italian counterparts.

The report also criticised stewarding and ticketing arrangements for the Olympic Stadium, adding that although not all the England fans behaved impeccably, a large number were treated "intolerably."

The FA set up telephone hotlines to their headquarters at Lancaster Gate following the match. They received 1,500 eyewitness accounts of the mayhem that erupted inside the stadium almost two weeks ago, and the 50 page report is largely based on the fans testimony. In a statement accompanying the official report, the FA said the "vivid and often painful" recollections of fans had been "striking in their uniformity"

FA spokesman David Davies said: "What emerges is that the FA believes the overwhelming majority of England supporters conducted themselves with great restraint on the night of October 11."

He continued "This happened despite what would appear to have been deliberate intimidation and sometimes extreme provocation on the part of some of those responsible for their safety and security while on foreign soil."


[ image: David Davies, backing the fans]
David Davies, backing the fans
He also added: "We are bound to stress our particular alarm at the fact that UK police officers who travelled to Rome were at best under utilised, at worst deliberately ignored."

"The report also highlights management failures within the Olympic Stadium. There was no effective stewarding or adequate signage. "The experiences of a large number of supporters before, during and after the match were intolerable."

However the conceded that some English fans did behave badly. Mr Davies said "There were certainly incidents of drunken, disorderly behaviour in Rome before the match. We do not claim every English fan behaved impeccably inside the stadium."

However the FA says that the Government must crack down on the remaining hooligans in British football. Mr Davies said that as long as known trouble-makers were allowed to travel to away matches, "the English game and her nation will suffer by association".

He continued in the statement: "Only new and imaginative action by government and the courts can spare football this burden in the future." He said it was time that all countries which staged top class international football should accept and sign up to "basic criteria" for match organisation.

Millions of TV viewers saw pictures of Italian policemen crushing English fans against barriers and hitting them with batons during the 0-0 draw which ensured England's automatic qualification for next year's World Cup finals.


[ image: Some fans were kept back for 3 hours after the match]
Some fans were kept back for 3 hours after the match
English fans said that after being moved to the wrong part of the ground, Italian supporters began throwing missiles at them while the police stood and watched. When a handful of English fans began retaliating, riot police wielding batons moved in and beat them.

Officials in the English game have been supporting the fans since the match. Glenn Hoddle, the English coach said away fans appeared to have been "provoked" by police, while David Mellor, head of the Government's football Task Force said the Italians should be "ashamed" of what happened.

Sports Minister Tony Banks, who was at the match, also accused police of "clubbing innocent people indiscriminately".

The Italian authorities have described the report as showing "only one side of the event.""
 







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