England vs Russia hooliganism was made WORSE by police tactics in Marseille, claims expert
The violence in Marseille this weekend was worse than it was in the same city during the 1998 World Cup - and police tactics contributed to it, an expert has said.
Doctor Geoff Pearson, an expert on hooliganism and football crowd control, was in Marseille 18 years ago when English fans clashed with French police and was also present in the Belgian city of Charleroi two years later when similar unsavoury scenes occurred during Euro 2000.
But he believes what he saw on Saturday, when violence erupted in the city involving local gangs, Russian ultras and a minority of England fans, was worse than anything he has ever seen before.
Pearson, who was at the Stade Velodrome for the match, told the Telegraph: “This is developing into the most serious incident of violence and disorder that I have ever seen and that would include Charleroi 2000 and Marseille 1998. To me it was worse."
Trouble worsened at full-time of the match when Russian ultras rushed the section of the stadium holding England supporters and began to attack innocent fans of Roy Hodgson's team.
Pearson added: "The fact that the Russian ultras group were involved and there was disorder in the stadium. It makes it worse than I was expecting, which is quite incredible.”
Pearson says English fans preparing for the match in the Old Port area of Marseille were provoked a few hours before the match when local gangs appeared and began throwing bottles at them at around 3pm.
He claims the police made mistakes by confronting supporters dressed in riot gear and believes they would've been better equipped to diffuse the situation if they had been dressed in normal clothes.
Video - Russian ultras confront England fans in the Stade Velodrome:
"The evidence shows that if police don’t wear helmets and shields, crowds don’t throw bottles," Pearson added. "If they wanted to do it right it is difficult to see how they could have done it any worse. When you thought it couldn’t get any worse the Russian ultras arrived, 100-150 of them, organised and running around the back streets attacking English fans.
“At this point the police have been shown to be strategically incompetent and now it becomes worse because they are operationally ineffective... they do not have the right gear, the lack of intelligence suddenly means they are outmanoeuvred and out-thought by this group of Russians and they cannot provide protection – whether they want to or not."
England and Russia were warned on Sunday that further violence involving their supporters could see them thrown out of the competition.