SHOCKING scenes of violence coming out of Marseilles both before and after the England v Russia game on Saturday were reminiscent of the bad old days of English football. Andrew Riley asks: are we on the brink of another dark period?

I’m old enough to remember the dark days of the 1970s and 80s when football violence in England was sadly an all to common occurrence. Grounds back then were mostly standing, old and beginning to fall apart and it led to fans being penned in like animals.

This eventually led to the disaster at Hillsborough 25 years ago that left 96 football fans dead.

Those cages became the reason fans could not escape the Leppings Lane stand.

The sad events in Sheffield led to grounds becoming all seater and safer for families to attend games.

Back then, it was hoped that violence would end with the death of those fans, but sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Violence just moved outside of the grounds and into the streets with organised gangs arranging meets to fight before games.

There have been a rash of football violence related movies, but for me the best and most harrowing is the BBC TV movie The Firm, starring Gary Oldman.

It was the threat of violence that stopped my father from ever taking me to watch football as a kid. Luckily, he took me to watch rugby league, but even there, there is an element of idiots at almost every club; usually when the football season is over, they latch on to the local rugby team and trouble follows.

Thankfully, this is the exception in the sport. 99.9% of rugby fans of both codes are content to watch the sport, have a pint, chat to opposing fans about the sport they love and go home.

I’ve only taken my youngest lad to a couple of football games, and even then, I’ve feared that trouble wasn’t far away. We went to Bury v Hull City in the FA Cup this season, and once again, morons were letting off flares, taunting other fans and clashing with stewards and police.

Yet, in all the rugby matches I’ve taken him to, I’ve been happy to let him wander around the ground, enjoying himself, safe in the knowledge that he is unlikely to encounter any trouble; not that the sport is immune to idiots and fighting.

He’s 16 next year, and I would worry if he wanted to go to a football match with his mates. Not because they are trouble makers, but because there are too many trouble makers there intent on causing trouble after having had their 3 pints of shandy.

Is there a solution to this?

Removal of passports from those who are arrested and convicted obviously isn’t working as the scenes in France show, but England fans were not the only ones fighting.

Will it end?

I hope so, but I doubt it’ll be in my lifetime.

By Andrew Riley

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