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Friday, June 26, 1998 Published at 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK


Sport: Football

English fans spark fresh violence

England supporters in high spirits with their cans of alcohol

England football fans have sparked fresh violence in France, hurling bottles and cans at police and traffic.

The disturbances erupted in the town of Lens, hours before England were due to meet Colombia for a vital World Cup match.

Thousands of followers, many without tickets, had descended on the town, which was included in a ban on sales of alcohol, fearing a repeat of the riots in Marseille.

The trouble began as a group of about 300 supporters threw missiles such as drink cans at passing traffic beside a major roundabout by the station.

Riot police moved in only to find themselves becoming the thugs' target.

The officers were subjected to a sustained volley of bottles before charging into the crowd to disperse it.

As England fans fled up surrounding streets, police made a number of arrests and sealed off the six streets leading from the roundabout.

Second trouble spot

The normally-quite town was the scene of trouble by German fans last week.

Meanwhile, in Lille, tension mounted as English fans threw bottles and pint glasses at riot police.

More than 120 officers had sealed off the main exit to the railway station as fans gathered in the streets outside nearby bars, chanting "football's coming home".


Carnival atmosphere as fans pour in: the BBC's Paul Newman
French authorities had attempted to create a near alcohol-free corridor from the English Channel, via Calais and Lille, to Lens, by banning bars and restaurants from selling drink.

But many fans had taken their own cans and bottles, determined to enjoy the atmosphere in Lens, where thousands are gathering.

Thousands unable to see the match

Up to 10,000 of the 40,000 expected were believed to have travelled without tickets to the game.

Some cafes and restaurants remained closed during the alcohol restrictions, fuelling fears of disturbances.


[ image: Lens: thousands descended on the town]
Lens: thousands descended on the town
"Thousands of fans will be left with nowhere to go. The bars and restaurants were where they wanted to watch the match and it's going to be very difficult for them," said Alison Pilling, of the Football Supporters Association.

Earlier, 52 England fans were arrested in Belgium as disturbances broke out among supporters heading for France.

The supporters were held in Ostend after paving slabs were thrown through the windows of shops, offices and hotels.

Reports said many of the fans were drunk when they left ferries at the Belgian port.


Ostend Police Commissioner Eddie Dupuis: English rioters threw stones through shop windows
Ostend hotel owner Elsa de la Fontaine said: "Football always causes us problems. They drink too much in a group atmosphere and then there's trouble.

"These people should be kept in jail until they pay for everything. If they don't have money, they should use credit cards or get their families back home to pay.

"They must pay back every penny."

Ms de la Fontaine said the police had warned them the fans could cause trouble, but she added: "They didn't have to say anything. We were already in a state of alarm."

Fears of weekend clashes

Five Category C hooligans - maximum risk classification - were among the 43 English football fans arrested during disturbances in France on Thursday night.

In Lens, 20 people were arrested, 17 for being drunk and disorderly.

Authorities believe that the alcohol ban put in place before England's match with Romania in Toulouse played a key part in preventing the repeat of violent clashes between rival gangs of hooligans during the opening match in Marseille.

Fears remain that English and German hooligan groups could meet Lille during the weekend.

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