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Russia face expulsion from Euro 2016 over fan violence

Soccer

Russia could be thrown out of soccer’s Euro 2016 championship if their fans cause further trouble inside a stadium, with UEFA imposing a suspended disqualification and a 150,000 euro ($A229,000) fine on the Russian Football Union.

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Masked Russian supporters charged at England fans, punching and kicking them, after the final whistle of the 1-1 Group B draw on Saturday at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

Russia’s fans were also involved in violent clashes with England supporters in the Mediterranean port city before and after the match.

“Charges relating to crowd disturbances, use of fireworks and racist behaviour had been brought against the RFU (Russian Football Union),” UEFA said in a statement overnight, Australian time, adding its ethics committee had imposed a suspended disqualification and fine.

“Such suspension will be lifted if incidents of a similar nature (crowd disturbances) happen inside the stadium at any of the remaining matches of the Russian team during the tournament,” it added.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said sanctions on the RFU were excessive, R-Sport news agency reported.

“The punishment is excessive, but we cannot influence it. The fine is enormous as the Russian Football Union is a non-commercial organisation. There is no sense in appealing,” R-Sport quoted Mutko as saying.

“But what the team has to do with that? It is not guilty.

“This decision (to fine Russia) was pre-determined. There was the decision of the executive committee, now they just confirmed this decision,” said Mutko.

The violence in the stadium followed three days of clashes between English, Russian and French fans in Marseille that drew a strong response from riot police.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some football fans would be deported over the violent clashes which had marred the start of Euro16, and a group of Russian fans was detained near Cannes on the Riviera.

While UEFA’s sanctions relate to incidents inside stadiums, the governing body warned last Sunday it could throw England or Russia out of the tournament “irrespective of any decisions taken by the independent disciplinary bodies relating to incidents inside the stadium” if violence continued in areas outside.

Russia face Slovakia tonight, Australian time, in Group B in Lille, while England take on Wales on Thursday in neighbouring Lens. Wales are top with three points followed by England and Russia with a point apiece and Slovakia who are yet to get off the mark.

It is the second time in as many European Championship tournaments that the Russian federation has faced sanctions because of the behaviour of supporters.

The RFU was fined and given a suspended six-point deduction for its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign after fans assaulted stadium security staff and displayed illicit banners at the 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Russia coach Leonid Slutsky is backing his team’s fans to behave themselves in tonight’s game against Slovakia and avoid his side being expelled from the European Championship.

“We are sure (our fans) will not do the same, they will not give any reasons to disqualify our team,” Slutsky said.

“We are sure we are not going to be kicked out… there is not going to be any injustice.”

Slutsky called the threat of expulsion a “dangerous situation” for his team.

“We have addressed our supporters and asked them to behave within the framework of rules,” the coach said. “We need their support. They supported us very well during the England game.”

Russia forward Artem Dzyuba also urged his team’s supporters to steer clear of trouble in the Group B match.

“It would be a very stupid thing and it’s going to be a big disappointment if we go out,” the Zenit striker said.

“We don’t want to be disqualified from Euro 2016 because of this kind of situation. We do understand things can happen … Our supporters have to focus on just supporting us and we will try to show our best qualities in order to play in this competition.

“We are not in a street fighting championship here.”

Dzyuba also questioned the reporting of the incidents in Marseille.

“From British media you get the impression like English fans are angels,” he said.

“You can’t say the Russian fans are the only faulty ones. It was 50-50, and at every conflict there are two parts.”

-AP, Reuters

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