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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK

Sport: Football

New clashes as fans arrive

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 playing their opening World Cup match.

Tony Blair: fans involved in violence are a "total disgrace"
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.

[ image: Police block the road outside the stadium]
Police block the road outside the stadium
The police showed no immediate signs of intervening.

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.

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.

The BBC's Paul Newman: "These are the scenes which have destroyed a world cup dream"
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.

The BBC's Paul Newman: "This has to be one of the darkest days for English football"
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.

[ image: Once again thugs have soured the World Cup's festive feel]
Once again thugs have soured the World Cup's festive feel
The latest violence follows disturbances on Saturday night.

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.

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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