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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Reid voices football police worry
Police and fans clash at Rome's Stadio Olimpico
Police and fans clash at Rome's Stadio Olimpico

Home Secretary John Reid has questioned the way that Italian and Spanish police handled clashes involving fans of British football clubs this week.

He said there were "questions to ask" after baton-wielding officers fought with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur fans in Rome and Seville.

But Rome's police chief blamed violence in the city on United and its fans.

Achille Serra produced a film showing supporters apparently smashing seats and spitting at officers.

Robust defence

Mr Reid said he would be studying reports from the Metropolitan police as well as from football authorities and British consuls.

He added: "I think that anyone who saw some of these incidents would at least have questions to ask about how they were handled, and we have asked those questions."

Tottenham have claimed that Spanish police hit a disabled fan during Thursday's Uefa Cup tie in Seville.

Riot police charged the away fans midway through the first half of the match, with fighting continuing into the half-time interval.

Spanish government official Faustino Valdes blamed drunken Spurs fans, but supporters of the English club said the authorities over-reacted.

Images of police fighting with supporters during Manchester United's 2-1 defeat by Roma on Wednesday evening had led to earlier calls from UK ministers for answers from Italian authorities.

Police had been accused by Manchester United of handing out "indiscriminate beatings" during the Champions League game against Roma.

Tottenham Hotspur fans in Seville
English fans can have a different attitude when they go abroad
Malcolm Clarke
Chairman, Football Supporters' Federation

But Mr Serra, Rome's chief of police, used a press conference on Friday to launch a robust defence of the force's conduct.

He presented journalists with seven minutes of CCTV footage which showed Manchester United supporters acting aggressively, with a number of ringleaders urging other fans forward.

Individual fans were picked out by Mr Serra, including one man - apparently the same as one who had been pictured in the UK media bleeding from the head - throwing objects.

However, the BBC's Christian Fraser, who attended the press conference, said the footage was too grainy to identify the man.

'Hotheads'

Mr Serra added that 300 United supporters had rampaged through the streets of Rome, vandalising bars, throwing bottles and clashing with rival fans.

A letter issued by Manchester United which warned fans that they might be attacked in Rome was blamed by Mr Serra for inciting trouble.

He said: he was worried that this would "incite the Roma hotheads who are not very well educated."

He also waved photographs of clashes involving Tottenham fans in Seville, and said the complaint from the British was the same.

Following the incidents, three English fans have been banned from football stadia in Italy for three years, local media reported.

The three fans have been released from custody but will face trial in November, an Italian newspaper said. The reports could not immediately be confirmed.

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

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

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


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
John Reid questioned police handling of clashes



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06 Apr 07 |  Europe
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In pictures: Rome football violence
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NI fans caught up in Rome clashes
05 Apr 07 |  Northern Ireland

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