Lansdowne Road football riot
|Date||15 February 1995|
|Filmed by||RTÉ Sport|
|Inquiries||Judicial inquiry by Thomas Finlay|
The Lansdowne Road football riot was a riot during a friendly football match between the Republic of Ireland and England in Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin, Ireland on 15 February 1995. The riot was caused by the English neo-Nazi organisation Combat 18, and injured twenty people. Combat 18's plans to cause trouble during the match were known by the British National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), and this was communicated to the Gardaí (Irish police). An inquiry into the events found that they could have been avoided if the Gardaí had acted on the information from the NCIS.
Combat 18 is a violent, neo-Nazi organisation founded by Paul David Sargent. The group was founded in 1992 as a stewarding service for British National Party (BNP) events. It later split from the BNP because Sargent felt that they were "too soft". Combat 18 has used football hooliganism as a recruiting ground, and has plotted to send parcel bombs to sports stars in mixed marriages.
The last time England had played Ireland at Lansdowne Road was a UEFA Euro 1992 qualifying Group 7 match in November 1990. After that match, there were clashes between some Irish and English fans and the Gardaí on O'Connell Street in Dublin. Before the 1995 friendly match, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) held talks with the Football Association (FA) to review security arrangements to avoid a similar episode. The FA was offered 4000 out of approximately 40,000 tickets, for English fans.
As the national anthems of each side were being played, there was some trouble, with some Irish fans jeering God Save The Queen, and some English fans, including members of Combat 18, chanting "Sieg Heil", "no surrender to the IRA" (to the tune of the chorus line of the hymn Oil in My Lamp), "Ulster is British", and giving the Nazi salute as Amhrán na bhFiann was playing. The match began at 6:15pm, and after 21 minutes, David Kelly scored a goal for Ireland. When an English goal was disallowed, some of the English fans began throwing debris down into the lower stands, including parts of benches which they had ripped out earlier in the match. When this happened, the referee immediately stopped the game, and brought the players off the pitch. When Jack Charlton, the Irish manager and former England player, walked off the pitch, the mob shouted "Judas, Judas". The fans in the lower stands then spilled out onto the pitch to escape the missiles from the English fans. Some Irish fans had mistakenly been put into the area where the English fans were when the FA returned a number of tickets to the FAI.
After the teams left the pitch, the frequency of missiles intensified, and after twelve minutes, the game was called off, and the fans were evacuated, with the exception of 4,500 English fans, who were kept in the stadium until the Garda Public Order Unit tried to escort them out, at which time more violence broke out. The Gardaí were slow to reach the area where the rioters were, and there was some confusion as to the exact location of the English fans between the Gardaí and the stewards. Twenty people were injured during the rioting, and forty were arrested.
The rioting was condemned on both sides of the Irish Sea. England manager Terry Venables said, "It was terrible. I have not got words strong enough to describe how we feel about this. There could be repercussions." Jack Charlton said, "I have seen a lot in football but nothing like this. It is a disaster for Irish football but I didn't want the game abandoned because what do you do with 2,000 English fans running around the town? The English fans were being bombarded by some of their own. And they brought out the worst in some of ours." The rioting brought into question England's hosting of Euro 1996, with Ireland's Minister of State for Youth and Sport, Bernard Allen saying "How can people from Ireland and from other countries go to England and expect to be safe watching matches in the presence of people like those who were here tonight?" The Garda handling of the match was criticised in the press when it was revealed that the Gardaí had been informed of the plans of some of the English fans to cause trouble by the British National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). The decision to seat the English fans in an upper tier was also questioned in the press. The photographs of English fans giving the Nazi salute became internationally known as a hallmark for English football fans.
After the questions were raised about the conduct of the Gardaí, former Chief Justice of Ireland, Thomas Finlay was appointed to investigate the events. He found that the rioting was entirely caused by the English fans without any provocation. Finlay reported that the Gardaí had received intelligence that members of Combat 18 were intending to cause trouble, and that the rioting could have been avoided if the Gardaí had acted on the intelligence. The investigation found that the head of the NCIS had offered help to the Gardaí in dealing with the hooligans, an offer which the Gardaí refused. The segregation of the fans was also found to be insufficient, and this was found to be a contributory factor to the incident.
The next meeting between the two sides would not take place until 29 May 2013, a friendly at Wembley Stadium, and the next meeting in the Republic of Ireland was on 7 June 2015 at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. Both games passed without major disturbances.
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