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Marseille: Ultrasound #englandfans

England Russia Fans

Ultrasound: (Ed.defn. is a diagnostic imaging technique used to see internal body structures). In the same way, I provide my own insight and commentary on this Weekend’s trip to Marseille to watch and support the England National Team in the European Championship – Euro 2016.

I was inundated by goodwill messages seeking confirmation of my safety, and that of my ten-year old Son, after the final whistle of the England versus Russia fixture.  It did make me think, I wonder what the media is broadcasting back in ‘Blighty’ and to what extent was it accurate and consistent with our experiences.  I wrote for reassurance and clarity on my Facebook page:

Home safe and sound my Friends – thanks for all goodwill messages. Of course, I’d protect my Son at all costs. Not seen a single incident involving England fans myself. Sure there will have been some. But any incident we witnessed was caused by Russian supporters. Not trying to dismiss moronic behaviour of mindless few, but expect as usual it’s the World’s media that like to sensationalise and blame the English always as ‘agent provocateurs’. At least based on yesterday in Marseille the police’s official statement was more balanced IMHO.”

This statement from National Police Chiefs’ Lead for Football Policing, Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Roberts said:

“England supporters had been in Marseille yesterday without issue. At around midnight, there was a short confrontation where a group of approximately 70 local youths approached a pub where England fans had congregated. This was quickly dealt with by French police and one English supporter was arrested. We are aware of no further incidents overnight.”

The trip will be remembered as one of the most enjoyable breaks in my life.  An emotional, fun and quality time in the most part for Father and Son in their first international football adventure.  This Video highlights just a few snippets of our ‘holiday fun’.

All day long, on match day, we had ‘a ball’ (excuse the pun!).  Infact, the whole trip was in the same vein.  Fans from clubs throughout England chatted and entertained one another in a convivial fashion.  I could recall numerous, but as a minimum we spoke to fans from Burnley, Tottenham, Oldham, QPR, Leeds, WBA, Everton etc.  All fans from England played their part in creating a fantastic atmosphere and spirit.  Of course, there was booze and ‘boisterous’ behaviour (as the radio pundits call it) but remove the singing and socialising and the roots of this great Game are erased.

Such a tone was common to the inter-action also.  All day we shook the hands of Russians looking forward to the evening’s game. Plenty of smiles and banter and England’s nominated fan even beat the Russian counterpart in a game of mini ‘ping pong’ in Marseille Harbour. An early handshake with one ‘rival’, when meeting again at the gates to Stade Vélodrome, resulted in a giant, man-hug so common is that friendship and bond of football.

We attended the Fan Park which was good to pass the time and keep the Lad entertained.  All sponsors showed good preparation to creating brand exposure, whilst soliciting personal contact details to add to the CRM no doubt, and future direct marketing campaigns.  No small budgets will have been incurred for such extravagance.  Turkish Airlines, Hisense and FDJ (La Ola) hit the target, Hyundai let down by incompetence by its ‘team’ manning the stand.

In preparation for Euro2016, our Police, confiscated the passports of nearly 1,400 people as part of the ‘Passport Surrender’ operation. That is equivalent to 97 per cent of the individuals currently subject to a banning order who hold a passport in the UK. Would the presence of these ‘hardcore’ of alleged hooligans have inflamed the situation? Possibly.  Would they have shifted more ‘blame’ to the English fans. Unlikely.  Of course, there’s a minority, that will always let down the true supporters and instigate criminal actions, but make no mistake from our experience the confrontation and protagonists were clearly, the Russians and French.

French Ultras took a focus on attacking English fans.  But the Russians took hooliganism to a different level.  I suspect the latter’s antics would be the foundation of a saleable commercial computer game – and movie that would make Green Street and Football Factory look like a children’s programme.

Supposedly these fans that started disruption in the Stadium, after the release of flares and bangers, were well drilled, of ‘one vision’, combative, ‘tooled up’ and conducting activities with military precision.  They have taken football hooliganism to a level never before witnessed in my opinion.  Thank goodness rather than the traditional, scapegoating towards England supporters – enquiries after investigation appear to remove the instant reflex and blame and appreciate the biggest finger should point East.

150 Russian football hooligans were behind the violence, French prosecutors have said. Brice Robin, Chief Prosecutor in Marseille, says: “most of the 35 people injured in the four days of fighting were English, four of whom are in serious condition.” Furthermore, he commented: “These people were well prepared for ultra-rapid, ultra-violent action. These are extremely well trained people.”

On a separate note, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the security at the Stadium was inadequate.  We could have taken terrorist materials and weapons into that Ground without difficulty as precautions and staff were found lacking.  Whilst, incredibly concerning, it gives added credence to the work that we are commencing at ACROBAT | FCSM with Safety Awareness which are gurus in sport venue security having planned and implemented successful campaigns at: Olympics, World Cups and Commonwealth Games.

Robin, continues: “Our spotters in Marseille saw them putting in gum shields and putting on martial arts gloves and bandanas before attacking England fans in the Port. We know some were carrying knives because one England fan was stabbed. They wore a kind of uniform – all in black t-shirts and clothing and most carried bum bags, possibly to conceal weapons.”

Football hooliganism is a different ‘Game’ now.  It has gone up a Level.  I wouldn’t be surprised if an English ‘Hooligan Hit Squad’ forms and seeks to climb that League table of Ultras show of strength.

But the final comment must again be taken from my social media.  I posted: “Now this is what really happened in Marseille #‎Euro2016‬ Quality Dad and Lad time #‎priceless.”

It remains and always will be in my work and play – the beautiful game.  Fan engagement will continue its momentum.  But the landscape for confrontation may have changed for good, hence my titling this post, ‘Ultrasound’.

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