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Sunday, March 29, 1998 Published at 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK


Banks calls for inquiry into fan's death
image: [ It was initially thought that Mr Fox was stabbed ]
It was initially thought that Mr Fox was stabbed

The Sports Minister Tony Banks has joined calls for an inquiry into how much was done to segregate rival football fans before clashes which led to the death of one supporter.

Mr Banks spoke out after some spectators said more should have been done to keep the two sets of fans apart.

Police say they are treating the death of Fulham fan Matthew Fox, 24 of Purley, Surrey, as murder. Three people have been detained for questioning.

[ image: Both clubs expressed horror at the death]
Both clubs expressed horror at the death
Mr Fox died when fighting broke out between about 50 people outside Gillingham's ground following the team's 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday.

A post mortem revealed that Mr Fox died from head injuries.

Some spectators said both sets of fans should not have been allowed to leave the ground at the same time.

Mr Banks said he deplored the death and his sympathies went out to Mr Fox's family.

Crowd safety concerns

"Clearly an inquiry needs to be mounted about the crowd safety there," he said.

Similar concerns were voiced by the Chairman of the government's Football Task Force, David Mellor.

He said the incident was "just so awful that football has to take a look at itself. There needs to be an inquiry."

He said: "Complaints about referees, stewarding and policing can be valid, but they are no excuse for the things we have seen this weekend.

[ image: Forensic scientists have been combing the scene for evidence]
Forensic scientists have been combing the scene for evidence
"The other issues take second place. I think the Gillingham incident shows that there still has to be proper segregation when fans are spilling out of a hotly-contested game."

On Sunday, fans of both sides went to the Gillingham ground and Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium to leave flowers, poems and tributes.

Relatives of the dead man visited the scene of the tragedy and stayed for about 30 minutes watching police forensic experts at work, but left without speaking.

Mr Fox's death was the most serious of a series of disturbances at British sports grounds on Saturday.

There weres pitch invasions at Barnsley, and at Headingley in Leeds during a rugby league game, as fans tried to get to the referees.

The death also came as pressure mounted on the French authorities to stop knives bearing the World Cup 98 logo being sold as part of the tournament's official merchandise in shops across France.

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