Time to get tough on the minority of thugs who blight football

One legendary football manager once said that the game was more important than life or death.

He was wrong.

Football maybe a passionate game - a game which can bring communities together and have a huge social and cultural impact, but at the end of the day it’s a game.

A game which sees 22 men kick a bag of wind around a pitch for 90 minutes. That’s it in simplistic terms.

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So I felt sadness and anger as I watched the violence unfold in Marseille before and after England’s opening Euro 2016 clash with Russia on Saturday.

It would be utterly wrong for any Englishman to take the moral high ground when it comes to hooliganism.

After all, its still dubbed the ‘English disease’ by some as a result of our so-called supporters rampaging in towns and cities across Europe in the 70s and 80s.

That disease reared its ugly ahead again at the weekend. A minority of England fans brought shame on our country with booze-fuelled violence in the ancient French port - but a minority it was.

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There was said to be more than 30,000 England fans in the city for the game, many there to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the culture of another country.

This is a view backed by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins, who tweeted a picture of England supporters outside a bar with the words ‘The story you won’t hear. Vast majority of England fans enjoying a beer without trouble in Marseille’.

But it was the ferocious violence of Russian Ultras who indiscriminately attacked English fans which has sent shockwaves through the game.

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They have since spoken of their terror at the moment they were ambushed by hooligans as they saw other fans attacked with metal bars and kicked in the head, leaving two critically injured.

This level of violence is unprecedented and the football authorities and police have to do everything in their power to stop it.

After all, it’s only a game isn’t it?