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46 arrested following ‘large-scale disorder’ prior to Europa Conference League match

By Sammy Mncwabe, CNN

(CNN) — Forty-six people are in custody and four police officers were injured following “disgusting and highly dangerous scenes” which took place ahead of Aston Villa’s 2-1 Europa Conference League win against Legia Warsaw on Thursday, West Midlands Police said.

According to a police statement, the “large-scale disorder” outside Villa Park in Birmingham, UK, involved Legia Warsaw fans and is believed to have been “sparked when tickets were not distributed by the away club to supporters outside the ground, as had been anticipated.”

The statement added: “The away allocation had been reduced to 1,000 tickets on the joint recommendation of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), working alongside Aston Villa and supported by UEFA.”

Chief inspector Tim Robinson, the police commander for the match, said that the “extreme violence” meant that “there was no other choice but to prevent away fans entering the stadium.”

He added: “The safety of everyone is our priority, and clearly we had no other option. There can never be a place for such appalling behaviour, and this is something ourselves and the wider community should never have to experience.”

Video circulating on social media shows people throwing flares and other objects at police after they were allegedly barred from entering the stadium.

In a separate statement on Friday, the police said that all 46 of the people in custody are away fans and are being held “for offences including violent disorder, assaulting police officers and weapons possession.”

The statement added: “No home fans were arrested and there were no issues from Aston Villa supporters at any point.”

On Friday, Aston Villa said that it has lodged an official complaint with European soccer governing body UEFA over the conduct of Legia Warsaw and the behavior of the club’s supporters prior to the game.

“The lack of cooperation and prevarication from Legia Warsaw officials prior to the match was entirely unacceptable and deeply disappointing,” said Chris Heck, president of business operations at Aston Villa.

“This behaviour increased the danger that West Midlands Police officers and our own fans were subjected to before the game and the scenes of disorder from the Legia fans have no place in modern football or civilised society.”

Prior to the game, Legia Warsaw had published a statement claiming that Aston Villa “refuse[d] to allocate tickets for away supporters in line with UEFA regulations for the UEFA Europa Conference League Match.

“As a result of the actions taken by the host club, Aston Villa, Legia Warsaw hereby announces that its official delegation, the board of directors, and the club’s owner and president, Dariusz Mioduski, will regrettably not be in attendance.”

In another statement sent to CNN on December 2, Legia also said that Aston Villa, alongside local authorities, “has a responsibility to ensure an adequate level of security both inside the stadium and in its immediate surroundings.”

It added: “Prior to our match against Aston Villa F.C., we have consistently maintained that our responsibility extends only to individuals entering the visitors’ sector with tickets distributed by us. No club should be held accountable for the actions of unidentified individuals without tickets for the match.”

However, Aston Villa said on Thursday that Legia fans “engaged in planned and systematic violent acts against West Midlands Police officers” an hour before kick-off.

Villa also said that a reduced number of tickets had initially been made available to Legia fans due to previous “large-scale disorder” ahead of the Polish club’s game against against AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.

“In spite of numerous requests for cooperation from Legia Warsaw concerning their travelling supporters, especially in the last two days, no assistance on the serious safety matter of away fans attending Villa Park was forthcoming from the visiting club,” Villa said.

CNN has reached out to both clubs for further comment.

In a statement sent to CNN, UEFA said that it “strongly condemns the unacceptable violence which occurred around the Aston Villa v Legia Warsaw match,” adding that it “is in the process of gathering all official reports from the game before deciding on potential next steps.”

The win saw Villa qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League, while Legia will only be able to guarantee qualification during its last group-stage game against AZ Alkmaar on December 14.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Aleks Klosok contributed to reporting.

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