While Uefa debates over the diplomatic hurdles of criticising Italian police, the British police had their own battle to fight outside Old Trafford before the Manchester United v Roma game last night.
16 fans (12 English, 4 Italian) are to appear in court after being arrested in isolated incidents outside Old Trafford. Charges ranged from public order offenses and criminal damage to possession of bladed weapons.
A total of 21 arrests were made initially, with 5 of them eventually being released or bailed.
The England fans are due before Trafford magistrates on 18 April, and the Italians were due to appear at Manchester City Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The number of Manchester United fans suggests that there was some kind of retaliation for what happened in Rome last week. From other reports that I’ve read today the reasons given for these incidents are that plenty of Roma fans were kept waiting for too long outside Old Trafford, even after the game had begun.
Whatever the case, Manchester United fans should not have reacted in this way. Hopefully this will not reflect negatively on the club.
Uefa are set to review video footage of the stadium incidents in Rome last week. You can catch that discussion here, or just go see this video and decide for yourself who’s at fault.
I expect both Manchester United and Roma to be fined, but if clubs are fined without Italian authorities being brought to justice on this one, that will be unfair (to both clubs).
A quick summary – during the first half, Roma fans threw things over the glass divider then after the first goal ran up to the divider and started banging on it. They over-ran the stewards line that was keeping them back. On the other side, Manchester United fans did the same except that they had police looking after them instead of stewards. The police retaliated, got a bit carried away and now Manchester United can be expected to face a hefty fine for having rowdy fans.
The whole incident is shameful. It is even worse that Uefa were not able to take a decision before the second leg was played – surely if only video evidence is enough then it would have taken an hour after the game to get a good idea of what was going on. Some action should have been taken then.
I hope that something concrete will be done this time and that unlike Lille, the police will not be exonerated for their parts in the mess.