Guilty until proven innocent

April 5 2007

A United fan caught up in the violenceIt seems utterly ridiculous that British football fans who travel to Europe to watch their teams are still presumed to be hooligans by foreign police and opposition fans.

Hooliganism, mercifully, has been largely absent from British football for a good fifteen years, and yet last night we once again saw the familiar sight of British fans being beaten by foreign police.

I’m not denying that the United fans in the Stadio Olimpico antagonised the home fans. I’m not denying that they probably antagonised the police. But the reaction of the police was unjustifiably and unforgivably brutal.

United fans who travel to away games in Britain do not engage in missile throwing and running battles with the police, so why does it happen in Europe?

It’s down to baton-happy local police and shoddy security arrangements. The Italian police still appear to think that the best way to calm a boisterous crowd is to club them all over the head until they can’t move. It is mind-bogglingly thoughtless policing. Any fool can see that placing armoured riot police between sets of opposition supporters is asking for trouble.

United will probably be fined – as they were after the farce of the Lille game in the last round – but they cannot be expected to take the blame for what happened last night.

Italian football, sadly, is bedevilled by the same hooligan problems that Britain had in the 1980s. The death of a policeman prior to the Catania-Palermo derby earlier this season demonstrates just how bad the problem is, and in big stadiums like the Stadio Olimpico and the San Siro, there are ‘no-go’ areas where policemen dare not enter.

Rather than (incredibly) praising the actions of the police, the Italian Football Federation has to realise that security arrangements in Italy must be dramatically overhauled – which means stewards instead of riot police, all-seater stadia and thorough security checks on home fans – or the dreadful scenes of innocent fans being treated like wild animals will continue.

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One Response to “Guilty until proven innocent”


  1. […] Guilty until proven innocent […]


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