All hell broke loose before match - Villa fans

2 months ago 66

Legia Warsaw fans let off flares as they clash with police officers outside the stadium before the matchImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

Four police officers were hurt in clashes with Legia Warsaw fans outside Villa Park

By Allen Cook

BBC News, West Midlands

Aston Villa fans said "all hell broke loose" before the European fixture with Legia Warsaw.

Four police officers were hurt during clashes with visiting fans, with one suffering concussions when struck by a flare as they were thrown at officers.

Police faced 90 minutes of "sustained violence", the force said.

Home fans also reported missiles being hurled into the stadium, in Birmingham, from outside the ground as police stopped the away fans from entering.

One of the injured officers, sent by West Mercia Police to support the West Midlands force, suffered concussion and inhaled smoke after a flare caught on her clothing, the force's police federation said.

West Midlands Police said 46 people were in custody.

Villa fan Justin told BBC Radio WM he had been walking to the ground ahead of the game and had just reached the north stand car park when "literally all hell broke loose".

"I turned round and there were flares thrown, things coming over the top. [The police] reacted very, very quickly to shut that down," he said.

Image source, Action Images/Reuters

Image caption,

Flares were thrown outside the stadium and fans said bottles had been hurled into Villa Park from nearby roads

One supporter said it had been "scary".

"I've never seen nothing like it, pretty scary," Simon Osborn said.

Officers were "faced with disgusting and highly dangerous scenes"and one was taken to hospital, West Midlands Police said.

Staff from other forces had come to support the West Midlands force, Jason Dooley, deputy chair of their Police Federation said.

"A West Mercia officer, which is the one we are a bit more concerned about, has got concussion and smoke inhalation where a flare was caught on her clothing which has injured her quite badly," he said.

Forty one people were detained for violent disorder, four for possession of a knife or offensive weapon and four for assaulting emergency workers. All were fans of the Polish side.

Phil Strickley was in Villa's Holte End and said fans outside the stadium had started throwing bottles in, including some picked up from a burger van.

"They were literally picking up all their ketchup bottles and launching them into the stadium, trying to hit our fans," he said.

Villa's Europa Conference League game went ahead and the Legia Warsaw fans were stopped from entering Villa Park over safety fears.

Fans of the Polish side tried to force their way in and officers with batons and shields were seen trying to regain control of the area.

Image source, Waseem Zaffar

Image caption,

Birmingham councillor Waseem Zaffar was at the game with his son and said some visiting fans had got into the ground

Birmingham councillor Waseem Zaffar was at the game with his eight-year-old son and said some away fans had managed to get into the ground.

"As soon as their team scored, they jumped up and then there was little spats here and there and a few of them got kicked out," he added.

"I felt nervous throughout the game with one eye on my son. Everyone had one eye on what was going on outside [Villa Park] rather than the game "

As well as the four officers, 10 people outside the ground were treated by paramedics for minor injuries, West Midlands Ambulance Service said.

The disorder was believed to have started due to tensions after the ticket allocation for visiting supporters was reduced to 1,000 on the advice of local emergency services.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Some Legia Warsaw fans who got into the stadium were removed from a Villa supporters stand during the game

Prof Clifford Stott, from Keele University, who is an expert on the policing of football crowds, was at the game.

"Some of the most serious disorder I've ever witnessed in a Uefa competition context tonight. Legia Warsaw have serious issues to confront and I can't see how Uefa cannot act," he posted on X.

Uefa - European football's governing body - said it strongly condemned the "unacceptable violence" around the game.

"Uefa is in the process of gathering all official reports from the game before deciding on potential next steps," a spokesperson added.

Dutch police officers were injured during large-scale disorder during Legia Warsaw's match against AZ Alkmaar last month.

Aston Villa won Thursday evening's game 2-1 courtesy of a 58th minute goal by Alex Moreno.

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