Violent clashes in Marseille on eve of England's opening Euro 2016 game

Violent clashes in Marseille on eve of England's opening Euro 2016 game

Violent clashes overshadowed the build-up to England's opening game of Euro 2016 as fans were involved in widespread disorder across Marseille.

Trouble flared in the southern port city for a second night running on Friday as supporters scuffled with gendarmes who used tear gas to disperse the troublemakers.

The disorder added to tensions already running high over the security of the tournament, with defence secretary Michael Fallon reportedly warning a terrorist attack is "likely" at the games.

Disturbing footage of the ugly scenes in an area popular with tourists showed English fans pelting objects into the street, showering the police with bottles and throwing chairs out of cafes.

Flares were also lit as officers carrying batons were taunted by the supporters, some of whom had been drinking heavily.

Bare-chested England fans sang songs about the IRA and German bombers being shot down as violence first broke out at around 6.20pm French time outside the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port district.

Fist fights broke out between English, French and Russian-speaking men, and one man was thrown into the harbour after he was beaten to the ground by local fans.

It comes before the England team have even kicked a ball in the tournament, with their opening game against Russia to be played at the city's Stade Velodrome.

France beat Romania 2-1 in their first match of the Euro 2016 tournament, which is taking place amid an unprecedented level of security prompted by recent terrorist atrocities on the continent.

The Daily Telegraph reported warnings from the defence secretary to England fans to be cautious, especially as last November's attacks took place in part at a football stadium.

"Fans should be very careful - the risk and the threat level is severe," he said.

"Stadiums are an obvious target as we have already seen with the Stade de France. Be very vigilant, an attack is likely."

A woman watches as football fans (nationality unknown) set upon a man wearing an orange top, prior to throwing him in the habour, where he managed to swim to shore, in the old town area of Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
A woman watches as football fans (nationality unknown) set upon a man wearing an orange top, prior to throwing him in the habour, where he managed to swim to shore, in the old town area of Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Friday's violence followed an England supporter suffering a head injury in Thursday night's brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair.

Trouble is said to have begun during an altercation between local youths and England supporters who had spent the day at a makeshift base outside the Queen Victoria.

Police arrested one Englishman and one Frenchman in connection with the incident. However Anthony Heraud, the manager of an Irish pub next door, defended the visiting fans.

"They are looking for (a fight), provocation... It's not the English," he said.

"There were some small exchanges but nothing too nasty. Englishmen are cool. They were just partying, singing a lot. But no problem."

The man who was set upon by others, swims to shore after they threw him in to the harbour. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
The man who was set upon by others, swims to shore after they threw him in to the harbour. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Mark Roberts, head of soccer policing in Britain, said England fans had been in the city "without issue" on Thursday until locals arrived.

"At around midnight, there was a short confrontation where a group of approximately 70 local youths approached a pub where England fans had congregated," Roberts said.

"This was quickly dealt with by French police and one English supporter was arrested. We are aware of no further incidents overnight."

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