'˜I've never seen football violence like that before'
AFC Fylde Chairman David Haythornthwaite has put the blame for football hooliganism in Marseille at the door of Russians and French locals.
Mr Haythornthwaite travelled to France to support his country against Russia in England’s opening match of Euro 2016, but instead got caught in the centre of an ‘onslaught’ from football hooligans.
The Coasters chairman said: “I have followed England all my life right from going to the European Championships back in 1980 in Italy and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like what happened in Marseille at the weekend.
“The fact that the England fans have taken the rap in the press is disgraceful. I was there with five of my friends, who included businessmen, dentists and magistrates and we certainly aren’t football hooligans.
“Up until about 2pm on Saturday there were around 25,000 England fans gathered enjoying a drink and there was absolutely no problem.
“Shorty after that around 100 Olympique Marseille fans turned up and set upon the England fans.
“Around an hour later, the six of us were having a nice peaceful meal in the square when all of a sudden the attack by the Russians began.
“As anyone who was there can testify these were men who had come prepared and had been, by all accounts, training for this day since the fixtures were announced.
“They turned up ready for battle and these weren’t 18-year-old kids, these were 30-odd year old built men and the onslaught on our fans was frightening and indiscriminate.
“We had to drag an England fan who appeared to be dead into our restaurant and barricaded ourselves in.
“He was unconscious for six or seven minutes but he came around.
“The battle went on for almost half an hour before police even turned up and when they did eventually arrive they had no idea how to deal with the situation.
“Having witnessed that at 4:30pm, they allowed the same mob to attack fans on the way to the ground, including our head of the AFC Fylde Community Foundation Tom Hutton who ended up in hospital, before inexplicably letting them in the stadium.
“It was obvious to everyone those 300 or so ‘ultras’ were going to attack the England fans because the only thing between them was a few stewards.
“Unbelievably there wasn’t one policeman in the ground and the fans, that were mainly families, were attacked again at the final whistle.
“How no one was killed I’ll never know.
“I think the media and The FA owe England fans, of which I am one, a massive apology for the condemnation that we received when in reality we were subject to the most terrifying attacks I have witnessed in 36 years of following England.”