Thursday, April 05, 2007

Minister's call for Roma answers




The British Embassy says 11 Man Utd fans were taken to hospital

A Home Office minister has said answers are needed from Italian police following brutal clashes with Manchester United and Roma fans.

Vernon Coaker's remarks came after baton-wielding police fought with supporters at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

The British Embassy said 11 Manchester United fans were taken to hospital, with two reportedly kept in overnight.

Mr Coaker said: "The scenes that we saw on our television screens were extremely concerning."

He told BBC Radio Five Live that he wanted to see reports from Italian and UK police, the British Embassy, the clubs concerned and the fans themselves.

"We need some explanation of what actually took place and the police response to it," he added.

Riot police

Manchester United said the police's response was a "serious over-reaction" and accused the police of handing out "indiscriminate beatings".

Uefa is to investigate the trouble involving many fans from both sides. Italian police - whom some fans accused of brutality - justified their actions.

Local media also said five people - three English and two from Italy - were injured in clashes as fans made their way to the stadium.

Two Roma supporters received hospital treatment after the clashes, it was reported.

During the game, which Roma won 2-1, both sets of fans could be seen throwing missiles at each other.

This is the sort of thing that happens in the ground every week but is not reported

The two sets of supporters were separated in one section of the ground by a barrier with riot police gathered on the Manchester United side.

After each goal both sets of fans surged towards the barrier.

At one stage, riot police with shields and batons were seen repeatedly striking Manchester United supporters.

Manchester United said in a statement: "The disturbing scenes witnessed in the Stadio Olimpico last night shocked everyone at Old Trafford.

"In what the club views as a serious over-reaction, local police handed out indiscriminate beatings to United supporters.

"In those circumstances, neither Manchester United, nor AS Roma is able to call the police to account."

The club said welcomed the government's examination of the incident and said it would collect witness statements from fans to submit to the Home Office.

'Justified response'

Before the game Manchester United fans were warned in letters and on the club's website to avoid certain areas of the city, as they could be attacked by Roma's hardcore "ultra" fans.

The city's mayor Walter Veltroni criticised Manchester United officials and said the advice could create a "negative climate".

Achille Serra, head of Rome Police, told BBC Rome's Christian Fraser the police action was a "justified response", and said there would be no inquiry unless he were shown evidence of any alleged police brutality.

Mr Serra added that if there were evidence of any brutality he would condemn it - but he said there was no such behaviour.

William Gaillard, from Uefa, said the body was very concerned at the number of violent incidents this year.

"We will be waiting for the delegate's report, and the control and disciplinary body will be looking at the television images to see the dynamics of what actually happened."

In February the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) suspended all matches after a policeman was killed at a Serie A game between Catania and Palermo.

Three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed and 10 others hurt during fights with Roma fans at an Uefa Cup quarter-final last year.

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