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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 06:38 GMT
Violence flares at Chelsea clash
Chelsea fans
Riot police move in on fans during the match
A Chelsea football fan is being questioned by police after being arrested on suspicion of attacking a steward and inciting a riot during the club's Champions League defeat in Marseille.

Uefa are also likely to investigate the events that led to riot police wielding batons to fire tear gas in the enclosure containing about 2,000 visiting supporters towards the end of the first half.

Reports suggested missiles had been thrown into the Chelsea enclosure by Olympique Marseille fans standing about 20 yards away - separated by a fence at least 10ft high.

Tear gas was used simply to stop it getting any worse. The police moved in very quickly and the incident was brought under control quickly

Ian Davies of the British Consulate
However, the police commander at the match insisted the rapid reaction by the riot squad was made because a group of Chelsea supporters were pushing their way forward past stewards to the front of the section.

He said some fans had ripped out seats after the end of the match and thrown them at Marseille fans as they walked away below them.

He added a Marseille supporter had been stabbed during an earlier incident at a bar outside the ground - although another report indicated this was actually a Chelsea fan.

A number of fights also broke out in the city in the build-up to the match.

An unspecified number of spectators were apparently taken to hospital during the game but the main outbreak of trouble lasted about five minutes and the game - which Chelsea lost 1-0 - was not interrupted.

The police commander said: "The man will be kept in Marseille and will be charged with violence against a steward and inciting a riot."

Chelsea fans
Tear gas was fired into the crowd
The police commander said: "The CRS riot police were sent in to prevent the supporters getting on to the pitch. The order was given to release tear gas. We arrested one man on the spot.

"Stewards are normally left to control supporters within enclosures but it looked as if an uncontrolled, serious incident could occur."

The police commander insisted that despite the trouble there was mainly a "good rapport between the two sets of fans".

Ian Davies, consul-general at the British Consulate in Marseille, who attended the match, said he understood the tear gas was fired after stewards appeared to be forced out of the enclosure by Chelsea fans.

Ugly scenes

He said: "Tear gas was used simply to stop it getting any worse. The police moved in very quickly and the incident was brought under control quickly."

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates declined to make any comment until he was aware of the exact details of what had happened.

Earlier in the day seven Chelsea supporters were released without charge after spending 14 hours in custody following running fights between English and French men on the Lyon Metro last night.

The French city of Marseille was also the venue for some of England football fans worst clashes with police during the World Cup in 1998.

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See also:

29 Feb 00 |  Champions League
Chelsea go down in Marseille
16 Jun 98 |  UK Politics
Straw slams 'treacherous' hooligans
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