Euros 2016: Weston football fans’ fears during Marseille violence
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 June 2016
Weston-super-Mare football fans who travelled to France to watch England in the Euros found themselves confronted by ‘nasty’ and ‘scary’ violence which broke out in the city and at the ground.
England fans were injured, some seriously, during attacks inside and outside the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille on June 11, on the day of the England and Russia game.
Six England fans have already been jailed in connection with hooliganism in the city’s streets, while two Russian supporters were arrested in connection with a pitch invasion.
Wayne Hadley and eight friends from Weston travelled to the dock area in Marseille, where he said there were around 2,000 England fans drinking, singing and generally being good-natured.
After a while, they went to a side road to find somewhere to eat. Unknown to them, violence had erupted in the square, and fans were throwing chairs and bottles.
The police responded with tear gas, and the supporters went running into the side streets.
Wayne said: “It had an awful smell, but more importantly, it stings your eyes. We were confronted by all these people who didn’t know where to run.
“We tried several routes but they were blocked by police and fighting.
“The visibility becomes a problem and you end up running into people you would not necessarily want to run into. It was very scary and nasty.”
Subsequent reports have described the Russian hooligans as being ‘well-trained’, with officials saying they had been drilled for ‘ultra-rapid, ultra-violent’ attacks.
However, Wayne said his group was luckier than other fans, as they had been in another restaurant area which he later discovered had been ‘completely destroyed’ by Russian fans.
He said: “I think the worst decision we made was wearing England shirts because we were sitting ducks and couldn’t get away.
“We decided to go to the stadium, and that was an issue as there was tear gas and water cannons. We couldn’t get away from it.”
Mercury reporter Sam Frost and his brother Dan were among fans inside the stadium, and did not encounter any problems until after the second half in the game.
They were on the opposite side of the Stade Vélodrome from the Russian supporters who let off fireworks and flares during England’s opening game.
But they said they made a quick getaway as soon as the final whistle went in an attempt to avoid the trouble.
Sam said: “It was quite scary. We were aware at the start of the second half that there was a different atmosphere in the other end.
“At about two minutes before the final whistle, a flare was shot in the air from the Russian end.
“As soon as the final whistle went, me, my brother and my friend ran out of the ground as fast as we could.
“On the other side, we saw a swirl of people moving across the stand and managed to burst through the line of stewards.
“I have never been so scared at a football game. At the final whistle we were very aware of it being a different environment to what we had experienced before.”
Dan said there was a good atmosphere before the game, but added: “After the game, there was panic and people leaving the stadium very quickly.”
Following the game, questions have focused on why supporters were able to get flares and fireworks into the ground.
Dan said: “All the security was a pat down. There were no metal detectors. It was not good enough.”
Sam added: “There was more security for the fan zone on the beach than to get into the ground itself.”
But Sam said despite reports that Marseille was like a ‘war zone’, everything is now normal.
He said: “It was not a swarm of football fans taking over. In the fan zone there was a great atmosphere.”
But the experience has been enough to potentially put off Wayne from going again.
He has tickets for the semi-final in Marseille but he said he will think twice about going – even if England reach that stage.