The UEFA Cup Final was held in Manchester, England, this week, and over one hundred thousand fans traveled to the city to see the game, despite the City of Manchester Stadium holding just 50,000. Greater Manchester Police warned fans last week that no big screens or other catered events would be laid on for ticketless fans, and that fans without soccer tickets should not travel to the city.
Part of the problem was that Glasgow Rangers were participating in the UEFA Cup Final, and the short journey from Scotland ensured a massive turn-out from their faithful. The opposing finalists, FC Zenit St. Petersburg had a longer journey from Russia, and the overwhelming majority of their supporters were carrying tickets. More than 100,000 Rangers supporters meant a huge police security operation, as the ticket-carrying Scots can only have numbered a maximum of 25,000. This meant that nearly 80,000 ticketless soccer fans were roaming loose in a city long renowned for its love of drinking and hedonism.
The police relented on their initial ruling by allowing three large screens to be erected in different parts of the city.
A giant screen in Piccadilly failed approximately 20 minutes before kick-off. Soon after, fans began pelting the police with bottles and other debris, and a series of clashes between the police and the rioters ensued. Eleven Rangers fans were charged – eight with public order offences – and 15 police officers were injured. Injuries included broken arms and cuts. Several cars were overturned, and a St. Petersburg fan was stabbed outside the stadium before the game, which FC Zenit St. Petersburg won 2-0.
There were, as ever, two sides to the story; Rangers fans accused the Manchester police of being heavy-handed. Assistant Chief Constable Justine Curran acted as Match Commander for the final, and she described a somewhat different scenario.
“It was challenging and we were stretched. Our officers did come under a degree of violent attacks,” Curran said in a statement. “I saw officers chased down a street by a baying mob of around 200 people. We had to do something.”