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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 07:03 GMT 08:03 UK
Rome police chief defends action
Police and fans clash at Rome's Stadio Olimpico
The British Embassy says 11 Man Utd fans were taken to hospital

Rome's prefect of police has defended their tactics in dealing with clashes between Roma and Manchester United fans in their Champions League clash.

Manchester United said the police's response was a "serious over-reaction" and accused the police of handing out "indiscriminate beatings".

But Achille Serra said: "To criticise the police is a sport. The British like to do it.

"The police were forced to intervene between two sets of violent fans."

He added: "The stewards were literally swept aside and at that point the police were obliged to intervene.

"If people are criticising the security forces... I was at the stadium and I saw no negative behaviour. Certainly when you are facing facts of this nature you can not hand out flowers, that much is clear."

A Home Office minister has said answers are needed from Italian police following the clashes.

Vernon Coaker's remarks came after baton-wielding police fought with supporters at Rome's Stadio Olimpico during Manchester United's 2-1 defeat.

The British Embassy said 11 Manchester United fans were taken to hospital, with two reportedly kept in overnight.

Mr Coaker said: "The scenes that we saw on our television screens were extremely concerning."

He told BBC Radio Five Live he wanted to see reports from Italian and UK police, the British Embassy, the clubs concerned and the fans themselves.

"We need some explanation of what actually took place and the police response to it," he added.

Riot police

Manchester United said the police's response was a "serious over-reaction" and accused the police of handing out "indiscriminate beatings".

Injured Manchester United fan
Some fans said they were struck by officers as they pleaded for medical help
Christian Fraser
BBC News

Uefa is to investigate the trouble involving many fans from both sides and campaign group Amnesty International backed calls for an inquiry.

Local media also said five people - three English and two from Italy - were injured in clashes as fans made their way to the stadium.

Two Roma supporters received hospital treatment after the clashes, it was reported.

During the game both sets of fans could be seen throwing missiles at each other.

The two sets of supporters were separated in one section of the ground by a barrier with riot police gathered on the Manchester United side.

After each goal both sets of fans surged towards the barrier.

At one stage, riot police with shields and batons were seen repeatedly striking Manchester United supporters.

Manchester United said in a statement: "The disturbing scenes witnessed in the Stadio Olimpico last night shocked everyone at Old Trafford.

"In what the club views as a serious over-reaction, local police handed out indiscriminate beatings to United supporters.

"In those circumstances, neither Manchester United, nor AS Roma is able to call the police to account."

This is the sort of thing that happens in the ground every week but is not reported
Ryan Tennant, Rome

The club said it welcomed the government's examination of the incident and said it would collect witness statements from fans to submit to the Home Office.

'Justified response'

Before the game Manchester United fans were warned in letters and on the club's website to avoid certain areas of the city, as they could be attacked by Roma's hardcore "ultra" fans.

The city's mayor Walter Veltroni criticised Manchester United officials and said the advice could create a "negative climate".

William Gaillard, from Uefa, said the body was very concerned at the number of violent incidents this year.

"We will be waiting for the delegate's report, and the control and disciplinary body will be looking at the television images to see the dynamics of what actually happened."

There is no doubt that Italian Police are "thugs in uniform". Some of the scenes were disgusting, especially the one where the fan is on ground and they continue beating

Amnesty International said it was concerned about claims the police "acted disproportionately" and urged the Italian authorities to fully cooperate with any inquiry.

In a statement, it said: "The organisation urges the Italian authorities to conduct a thorough review of current policing practices to ensure that Italy is abiding by international law and standards on the use of force by law enforcement officers."

In February the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) suspended all matches after a policeman was killed at a Serie A game between Catania and Palermo.

Three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed and 10 others hurt during fights with Roma fans at an Uefa Cup quarter-final last year.

Manchester United fans react to what happened

Fans in hospital after violence
05 Apr 07 |  Europe
In pictures: Rome football violence
05 Apr 07 |  In Pictures
NI fans caught up in Rome clashes
05 Apr 07 |  Northern Ireland


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