England captain Wayne Rooney and manager Roy Hodgson on Monday pleaded with the country’s fans to avoid further violence to head off a UEFA threat to disqualify the team from Euro 2016.
“I’m appealing to you to stay out of trouble,” Hodgson said in a video message. “We really desperately want to stay in the competition.” Rooney told fans: “Be safe, be sensible and continue with your great support for the players.”
After violence erupted in Marseille over the weekend, overshadowing England’s 1-1 draw with Russia, European governing body UEFA threatened to kick both teams out of the tournament if the disorder continued.
It also said both countries must make an appeal to their fans not to cause unrest.
England play rivals Wales in the northern French city of Lens on Thursday and Russian fans will also be in the area as their team faces Slovakia in nearby Lille a day earlier.
In a video message posted on the English Football Association’s Twitter feed, Hodgson said: “As England manager I’m obviously very concerned about the threat which is now hanging over us and the sanctions that could possibly be imposed upon the England team.
“We worked very hard to get here and we really desperately want to stay in the competition. I’m appealing therefore to all of our fans.
“We appreciate your support at all our matches, of course, but I’m appealing to you to stay out of trouble and to try and make certain that these threats that are being issued are never carried out.”
Following Hodgson, Rooney said: “I’d like to thank the England fans for the great support inside the stadium against Russia and now we have a big game coming up against Wales.
“I’d like to ask the fans, please, if you don’t have a ticket, don’t travel, and for the fans with tickets, be safe, be sensible, and continue with your great support for the players. Thank you.”
On the other hand, a senior Russian Football Union (RFU) official and ultra-nationalist politician said that the country’s fans were right to fight England supporters at Euro 2016.
Igor Lebedev, who sits on the RFU executive committee and is also a deputy speaker in parliament, said on Twitter: “I don’t see anything wrong with fans fighting.”
“Quite the opposite, the guys did well. Keep it up!” said Lebedev, a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia headed by his father Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
He said the violence was “not the fans’ fault”. Lebedev blamed French police’s “inability to organise such events.”
Lebedev also claimed in a separate interview with Life.ru tabloid website that Russians were provoked by England supporters and suggested Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko would have enjoyed joining in the clashes.
“I personally think that if Mutko was with the fans on the stands and not an official, he would also go and fight the English fans since they were the ones who started it,” Lebedev said.
Mutko has said Russian hooligans are “disgracing the country” ahead of its 2018 hosting of the World Cup.
Lebedev’s comments came as Russia faces the threat of disqualification from Euro 2016 and a British fan remained in a critical condition after fights in Marseille during and after the England-Russia match on Saturday.
The RFU on Sunday urged fans to behave properly to avoid UEFA sanctions against the national side. UEFA has said Russia and England could face disqualification if there is further fan violence.
Lebedev criticised officials and politicians for “branding our fans,” however. “We need to defend them: they’ll come home and then we’ll work out what happened.” A Moscow city lawmaker, Maxim Motin, told Dozhd television on Sunday that he witnessed the stadium violence in Marseille and “Russian fans did not do anything criminal or outside the limits.”