Millwall Deflects Responsibility For FA Cup Fan Violence As Late Start, Drinking, Drugs Blamed
League Championship club Millwall defended its ticketing policy for the FA Cup semifinal with Wigan "after violence overshadowed the match at London's Wembley stadium," according to Giuseppe Muro of the London EVENING STANDARD. The decision to allow tickets for Saturday’s game to go on general sale "has been widely criticised as investigations into the shocking scenes continue." The fallout from the trouble in which 14 people were arrested could see the FA "change the way major matches at Wembley are policed." There "have also been questions" over the 5:15pm kick-off time, which was made to suit TV scheduling, but "increased the number of drunken fans." Millwall is "willing to review" its process of selling tickets, but CEO Andy Ambler "does not believe it was part of the problem." Ambler: "I don’t think the way we sold tickets is going to be an issue. We sell responsibly, we were praised by the FA in the build-up on the way we had sold. This is the third time we had been at Wembley, and we have not had a problem before" (EVENING STANDARD, 4/15).
LATE KICK-OFF QUESTIONED: In London, Gary Jacob reported Millwall "privately expressed reservations to the FA about the late kick-off time." Consumption of alcohol and drugs "have been cited as key reasons for trouble flaring among fans." Meanwhile, there were worse scenes in Tyneside Sunday "when a police officer needed hospital treatment and 27 people were arrested after Newcastle United fans ran riot in the city centre" after the team lost 3-0 to Sunderland. Newcastle "supporters set light to wheelie bins, threw glass bottles and threw firecrackers at police officers and police horses" (LONDON TIMES, 4/15). Millwall believes those involved in the violence were its "own regular supporters, and potentially season-ticket holders, rather than those from other clubs who had gone with the intention of causing trouble" (London INDEPENDENT, 4/15). In London, Giles Mole reported Millwall has been left "devastated" by the violence. It was a throwback to the '80s, when Millwall was "synonymous with hooliganism, and could undo decades of hard work behind the scenes to try to rid the south London club of its tarnished image" (TELEGRAPH, 4/15).
A DRUG LINK: The London EVENING STANDARD reported police have "promised to track down every troublemaker." The pledge came after claims that "some fans were openly taking cocaine." Supporters said that they saw "groups of men taking the drug on the Wembley concourses before the game and again at half-time." One fan said, "There was no attempt to cover up what they were doing. They were openly snorting cocaine like other lads were downing lager" (EVENING STANDARD, 4/15).
NEWCASTLE VIOLENCE: In London, Josh Burrows reported Premier League Newcastle United said it is "embarrassed and appalled" after violence broke out in the city Sunday following a 3-0 loss to Sunderland. The Tyneside club has "vowed to ban for life anybody found guilty of participating in the disorder, in which three police officers were injured after coming under attack." A Newcastle statement read: "These deplorable individuals have no place at Newcastle United and bring shame on the club and the vast majority of its proper, law-abiding fans." West Yorkshire police "confirmed that a Newcastle fan filmed attempting to punch a police horse" had not managed to injure the animal or rider. The West Yorkshire Police Horses’ Twitter account posted a picture of the horse, "Bud," in his paddock, alongside a message confirming that "he and other horses returned safe and well" (LONDON TIMES, 4/15). Also in London, Tony Evans wrote, "Mindless Millwall and men who punch horses. It has not been a good weekend for football fans, has it?" The scenes at Wembley and in Newcastle "throw up many questions." They are "invariably the wrong ones." There is an "uncomfortable truth about violence at football matches." Most of it occurs "because men from working-class backgrounds are put into confrontational situations with similar people." When that happens, "there will be confrontation." Throw in "substantial amounts of alcohol -- 5.15pm kick-off, anyone? -- and there is a capacity for trouble" (LONDON TIMES, 4/15).
BRAZIL SHOOTING: REUTERS' Rex Gowar reported two football fans "were shot dead on their way to a match at the Arena Castelao World Cup stadium in the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza on Sunday." The national Globo network's website "cited police sources in their report that the two young men, fans of visiting team Ceara, were shot in the head from a passing vehicle allegedly carrying two Fortaleza supporters" (REUTERS, 4/15). The London TELEGRAPH reported the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said that Ceara fans "started the initial fracas by throwing stones at Fortaleza supporters, and this in turn sparked the shooting." An unidentified man "had been arrested in connection with the incident," which occurred about five kilometers from the Arena Castelao. Police "carried out severe security checks at vantage points close to the stadium." The shooting "could not have come at a worst time" for Brazilian football authorities, with the Confederations Cup and World Cup both being staged in the country (TELEGRAPH, 4/15).
GREEK HOOLIGANISM: The BANGKOK POST reported Greek side AEK Athens FC "look almost certain to be relegated from the country's top flight for the first time in its history, after hooliganism marred their penultimate game of the season." Hundreds of AEK supporters "clashed with police both on and off the pitch at Athens' Olympic Stadium on Sunday, leading to the match with second-bottom Panthrakikos to be called off." Had the match been restarted and "the scoreline remained the same until full-time, AEK -- 12th in the 16-team league going into the tie but with only a point separating them from the 15th spot -- could still have avoided relegation by winning at Atromitos" Sunday. But the Greek league now looks "likely to dock the capital club three points and impose a heavy fine, consigning the team to relegation for the first time" in its 89-year history (BANGKOK POST, 4/15). EUROSPORT reported AEK Athens President Andreas Dimitrelos "was admitted to hospital with chest pains, a day after the club's fans caused the abandonment of a Super League match." Dimitrelos had "left the club's Olympic Stadium on Sunday with other administrative officials" before the "ugly pitch invasion" (EUROSPORT, 4/15).