Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 13:09 UK

Uefa violence 'stretched' police

Rubbish-strewn Piccadilly Gardens
A clean-up of the city centre got under way on Thursday

Police in Manchester who came under violent attack from Rangers fans in the city for the Uefa Cup final admitted they were "stretched" by events.

Assistant Chief Constable Justine Curran said the influx of 150,000 Scottish fans was "unprecedented".

She said officers were attacked and riot police were deployed after a city centre big screen failed, adding: "I had 15 officers injured last night."

Police made 42 arrests and ambulance crews dealt with 52 cases of assault.

During a briefing on Thursday, Gordon Brown condemned the violence saying those without tickets for the match should have thought twice before travelling to Manchester.

He said it was "a disgrace to see people misbehaving" and said the home secretary would be speaking to Greater Manchester Police about what happened.

Mr Brown added: "It was a minority but it was completely unacceptable for that to happen in a public place, where the Manchester authorities had made available the facilities for people to enjoy the match.

"It means that they have good reason to be angry about what happened.

"We do have laws that enable us to control drinking in public places where there is a risk of disorder, and we will have to look at these laws for the future."

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Violence on the streets of Manchester - and the aftermath

City officials have insisted only a small proportion of the huge number of fans in the city were responsible for the disturbances and said the vast majority were peaceful.

Violent clashes were sparked when police officers came under a "severe level of attack", Assistant Chief Constable Curran added.

Despite the scenes, council leader Sir Richard Leese said the city would not be put off hosting future international sporting events.

Sir Richard said it was one of the biggest movements of people seen for such an event, and paid tribute to the authorities for the handling of the crowds.

"Clearly we are very disappointed that what was a great night was soured by the activity of a very small number of people.

Over the last 10 years we've held very many major sporting events... we plan to hold many more
Sir Richard Leese

"This was a very small minority of yobs that caused us severe problems.

"In terms of Manchester's attitude to major sporting events, over the last 10 years we've held very many major sporting events, including major football events within the city, over the next 10 years we plan to hold many more."

The clashes came after officers came under attack from a "mob", he said.

Riot police were deployed and arrests made, including six who were held after a Russian fan was stabbed inside the City of Manchester stadium.

The Scottish Conservatives are demanding an inquiry into the policing of the final, claiming the decision to deploy riot police was an overreaction which may have inflamed the situation.

But Sir Richard said: "If you are going to put blame on anybody you put blame on those people for their behaviour - they have to take responsibility."

'Baying wolves'

Assistant Chief Constable Curran said officers had responded appropriately during what she described a "challenging" situation.

"It was challenging and we were stretched. Our officers did come under a degree of violent attacks. I am happy we responded appropriately." she said.

At one point, the assistant chief constable said a group of about 200 fans chased some officers up a street, tripped one up and "jumped on him like a pack of baying wolves".

The general secretary of the Rangers Supporters' Association, John MacMillan, said he was disappointed with the behaviour of some fans.

He added: "There is no excuse for it to be honest. From what I saw before the game there was no need for attacking paramedics and the police, it is indefensible."

Delwyn Wray from the North West Ambulance Service said his crews had dealt with 52 assaults, adding: "There were more incidents last night than we have on New Year's Eve."

A massive clean-up operation is taking place in the city and more than 100 tonnes of rubbish - mainly empty alcohol containers - was cleared by 1000 BST.


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