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England and Wales fans gear up for Euro 2016 match

Both sets of fans were in good spirits but police were braced to prevent more of the violence that has brought England and Russia the risk of expulsion from the tournament Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters Lens, France Jun 16, 2016, 01.46 PM (IST)
Thousands of England and Wales fans gathered in the French town of Lens and Lille for their team's Euro 2016 soccer showdown today.

Both sets of fans were in good spirits but police were braced to prevent more of the violence that has brought England and Russia the risk of expulsion from the tournament.

French riot police charged and used tear gas to disperse rowdy English soccer fans in the nearby northern city of Lille on Wednesday night. Police said about 50 people were hurt, 16 of them hospitalised.

UEFA said today that it regretted the violence but it stopped short of action to punish the fans or teams.

The governing body of European soccer said it was planning no Executive Committee meeting in the wake of the overnight violence on the streets of Lille.

The decision effectively means England are not under any immediate threat of disqualification over their fans' behaviour as any decision to expel England for crowd disturbances outside the stadium would need to be taken by the executive committee.

Today's Group B match between England and Wales in the Euro 2016 group has been dubbed "The Battle of Britain".

Lens Prefect Fabienne Bucchio told reporters the town was quiet so far. Only nine people were detained by police overnight, she said, all in connection with minor incidents of drunkenness. Eight of them were French.

After violence in the Mediterranean port of Marseille before and after England's 1-1 draw with Russia on Saturday, UEFA warned England that a repetition of fans' violent behaviour could see the team expelled.

UEFA also told Russia that it would be disqualified if there was a repeat of their fans' violent behaviour, which included attacks on England supporters in the stadium as the match ended.

Throughout Wednesday (June 15), 36 people were arrested for various offences as Russia lost to Slovakia in Lille and England prepared to play Wales, police said.

This morning, police checked fans' boarding trains from Lille to Lens to ensure none were travelling with alcohol, leading to long queues. A heavy police team carried out similar checks in pouring rain on arrival 45 minutes later in Lens.
(Reuters)
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