State of Play (Off Field) at Euro 2016

As a lover of all things sport and competition, here is one post that I just wish I didn’t have to write.

All these hooligans worried about ISIS ruining the Euros are beating them to it. This isn’t sport, this is a gang fight series. I get passion and patriotism but never have I wanted to wound and maim another person because they liked a different set of 23 men. Only 2 days in and already this tournament will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Following the England vs Russia game, England goalkeeper, Joe Hart went to the supporters imploring them to stay in the ground and to stay safe while in the opposite corner of the ground a mass brawl had broken out between fans of both sides. The most notable casualties of the violence from an English perspective has come in the form of a man dieing after allegedly being pushed in front of a Metro Train following the match with Russia, another man suffering a heart attack as he tried to flee the scene of violence in the hours before the match and a video of an England fan being hit over the head with a wooden chair, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs.

It isn’t just English and Russians involved as in Lens reports of Northern Irish and Polish hooliganism broke out. Undoubtedly more violence and low level rioting will continue as the tournament progresses. But why and why Football? Sports such as Rugby and Cricket especially in England contain unsegregated seating and terracing, more alcohol consumed at the former also resulting in opposition fans joining together to enjoy a spectacle of human performance. The answer to that question we may never know as witnessing this at a young age sets the precedent for children at future tournaments that this is acceptable and the norm rather than sport being an opportunity to be socially and physically active, uniting people of multiple cultures rather than strain the already tested bonds of diversity.

UEFA coming out last night and this morning saying they “condemn the violence amongst the fans” without following up with any substantial punishments. While this continues its going to be equivalent to if I saw someone kick a puppy and I just go “I don’t agree with what they did” and get on with my life. Sure the violence and hooliganism is not all fans of each nation involved and with the nationwide presence of the championships, French police can not deal with all clashes efficiently while maintaining their regular duties. If this was club football within Europe then we would be seeing hefty fines to clubs (Various Football Associations likely to be fined here) and games to some extent behind closed doors. Now this is practically impossible within the current international tournament but could be a possibility for future qualifying. Disqualification has to be used at any last resort if it poses a serious threat to widespread human safety and permanent damage to Football’s reputation as a sport. It’s a daunting thought that we may have to accept that the cocktail of Alcohol, Sun and Ethnic Diversity will cause problems with UEFA having their hands tied over what they can do to punish those few without facing backlash from the many.

Nobody should ever go to do or see something they love and never return. Football is no longer the beautiful game. Football has lost more than it has gained.

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