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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK


Sport: Football

New clashes as fans arrive for match

Bottles and punches were thrown as rival fans gathered before the match

Trouble has broken out between English and Tunisian fans outside the stadium in Marseille where their teams are meeting later on Monday afternoon.

Rival fans hurled bottles at each other and riot police stood by ready to intervene just 90 minutes before kick-off.

England supporters, who were on one side of a wide tree-lined road, charged at Tunisian fans throwing bottles. The Tunisian fans responded and moved closer to the English.

The police showed no immediate signs of intervening.


Tony Blair: fans involved in violence are a "total disgrace"
Earlier England fans who had been involved in a second night of violence in Marseille were condemned by the UK Government and football authorities.

Bars in the Old Port district - the focus of the fighting - closed early on Sunday night in a bid to avoid more trouble.


The BBC's Paul Newman: "These are the scenes which have destroyed a world cup dream"
By then, around 50 people had been arrested, mainly England fans. Up to 20 people were reported to have been injured, two seriously. One man had his throat cut.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the fighting was a "total disgrace".

He added: "It may be a small number of fans, there may be other fans that have been involved, but that is no excuse, there aren't any excuses for it. We have to put a stop to it.

"These people have the absolute condemnation of everyone in the country."

Several of those arrested were identified by authorities as previous offenders.

The UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced that England fans arriving in the city will be escorted directly from the airport to the stadium. They will not be allowed into the city centre in an effort to prevent further trouble.

Sports Minister Tony Banks said "drunken, brain-dead louts" among England supporters and a "moronic minority" were ruining the country's reputation abroad.

Despite the behaviour of some fans, Fifa has insisted that England will not be kicked out of the World Cup finals.

"The English Football Association and the English football team cannot be held responsible for people throwing chairs through restaurant windows or setting fire to their opponents' flag," said FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper.

The latest violence follows disturbances on Saturday night.

Tear gas


[ image: Once again thugs have soured the World Cup's festive feel]
Once again thugs have soured the World Cup's festive feel
During Sunday's clashes police fired tear gas to break up groups of several hundred England and Tunisia supporters, on the eve of the World Cup match between the two countries.

There was a constant hail of bottles and missiles and as fans retreated they destroyed shops and premises. Some estimates put the damage at tens of thousands of pounds.

A BBC correspondent says Sunday's trouble started when a large group of Tunisians who had been chanting and drinking outside a bar close to the centre of town moved along the road towards where a large crowd of Englishmen were gathered.


The BBC's Paul Newman: "This has to be one of the darkest days for English football"
Moments later the first bottle was thrown and pandemonium broke out. The police, who had been keeping their distance, moved in very quickly, and for the first time the French riot police - the CRS - advanced.

Five or six CS gas canisters were fired into the midst of groups of English youths who had been throwing bottles. The police, with helmets, batons and shields, kept the English back at one corner of the port, the Tunisian supporters at another.

Saturday's violence


[ image: England supporters burn a Tunisian flag]
England supporters burn a Tunisian flag
English supporters clashed with police in the same area on Saturday night.

A cafe owner whose premises were wrecked by marauding fans said the English were responsible.

The FA's security adviser Sir Brian Hayes said: "This is drunkenness, this is hooliganism, there has been brawling breaking out between the English fans and local Arab youth.


The BBC's Andy Tighe: "Bar owners have pulled down their shutters for the evening"
"We can condemn it absolutely, I condemn it, so does the Football Association. It's caused a lot of damage."

He said about 200 British fans had been involved in the Saturday night skirmishes and four were arrested.

Two had been released but faced drink-related charges and two more were still being held but had not been charged. One fan had a broken leg.

Up to 10,000 English supporters and thousands of Tunisian fans have poured into the city over the weekend ahead of the match.

Click here to get full coverage of France 98 at the BBC's World Cup Website



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