Violence between Euro fans in the French city of Marseille has marred the Group B opening match, which saw England and Russia draw 1-1. Clashes also broke out in Nice, where locals set upon Northern Ireland fans.
After three days of violence between fans on the streets of Marseille, fresh clashes erupted on Saturday night in the city's Stade Velodrome stadium after a large group of Russian fans stormed the England stands, minutes after the match ended 1-1.
England supporters were seen jumping over high fences to escape the group of Russians as they charged into the rival section, throwing missiles, tearing down flags and seemingly attacking anyone in their path. Stewards at the stadium have been criticized for allowing the violence to unfold.
Groups of Russian fans were also able to reach the second tier of the stadium before a handful of stewards stepped in.
The violence on Saturday night was just the latest chapter in three days of clashes in the French port town. Ahead of the England-Russia match, local TV footage showed rival fans hurling bottles and attacking each other with metal rods and chairs.
According to Laurent Nunez, the prefect of Marseille police, at least 31 people were injured in Saturday's violence, three of them seriously and one critically.
The disturbances marred peaceful scenes earlier in the day, when fans mingled with tourists as relaxed police looked on.
On Friday, nine fans were arrested and officers fired several rounds of tear gas as drunk and bare-chested supporters fought one another and police in the Vieux Port district. Police said six of those detained would face formal charges.
With the UK set to head to the polls on June 23 to vote on its membership in the EU, some England fans were also reportedly heard chanting anti-Europe slogans and "we're all voting out."
UEFA deliberates sanctions
Speaking with the Associated Press, local store owner Jean Patrick Berbera described how the port area was turned into a "civil war" zone despite the police presence.
Nearby bars and restaurants were ordered to close, and local business owners vowed to implement extra security measures to avoid further damage to their properties.
England fan Gary Toal described a "mob mentality" on the streets but told AP that most fans were "trying to keep away from all that and enjoy the football."
UEFA is now set to open disciplinary proceedings over the three days of violence, with Russia expected to face harsh sanctions following the attacks in the stadium.
The European football body condemned the unrest, stating that "people engaging in such violent acts have no place in football."
Heightened police presence
Around 1,000 police officers have been deployed to Marseille during the month-long tournament, primarily to deal with an ongoing terror threat following the Paris attacks last November.
Marseille is also determined, however, to avoid a repeat of the violence during the 1998 World Cup when English hooligans clashed with Tunisia supporters. Police in Britain warned England fans they would face travel bans to matches at home and abroad if they took part in violence.
Locals attack Northern Irish in Nice
Further along the southern French coastline on Saturday, violence also broke out in Nice after locals began attacking Northern Ireland fans ahead of their opening match against Poland on Sunday. French police said seven people were injured, including one man with a serious head injury.
According to a Northern Ireland police officer accompanying fans at the scene, French riot police moved in after local Nice youths hurled bottles at Northern Ireland supporters in cafes near the central Place Massena.
"About 20 to 30 Nice youths started throwing bottles at the Northern Ireland fans. Some bottles were thrown back, some punches were thrown," the officer said.
ksb, mm/cmk (AFP, AP)