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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Fans riot on eve of World Cup vote

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Trouble broke out at the derby game between Birmingham City and Aston Villa (AP)

Trouble marred the end of a Cup quarter-final clash on the eve of the vote to decide whether England will host the 2018 World Cup.

Hundreds of Birmingham City fans invaded the pitch following their home victory over local rivals Aston Villa, some throwing flares towards where the away fans were sat and ripping up seating and hurling it towards the pitch. Dozens of police and club stewards struggled to contain the rioting.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said the violence threatened to bring English football “back to the Dark Ages” but that he did not think it would affect Thursday’s World Cup vote.

He told Sky Sports 1: “I don’t think that will affect the World Cup bid, I’m sure that’s already decided, and let’s hope England gets it because it deserves it.

“It doesn’t look good though, when you see fans running on the pitch like that and carrying on. It takes us back to the Dark Ages.”

On Thursday, England will learn if it is to host the 2018 World Cup when Fifa’s executive committee cast their votes at a meeting in Switzerland. The other contenders are Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said of the incident in Birmingham: “Police and club stewards are working to bring an end to sporadic outbreaks of disorder at the Birmingham derby.”

A Football Association spokesman said: “The FA abhors acts of violent behaviour and we urge the clubs and authorities to identify any individuals involved in disorder, and impose the stiffest available sanctions, including banning orders.

“The FA will fully investigate the matter in conjunction with the appropriate authorities.

“The whole of English football has worked hard to eradicate scenes of disorder from our game, with Home Office figures this week showing a significant drop in arrests at the many thousands of football matches held every week, the majority of which still pass trouble free.”

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