Police and football fans battle on Croydon’s streets

Hundreds of football thugs went on the rampage in Croydon, throwing missiles at police and damaging property after England's sudden loss to France on Sunday night.

A crowd of between 300 and 400 drunken louts clashed with police officers and vandalised a tram after England's opening Euro 2004 match.

Fifteen officers were injured.

Fourteen people were arrested for drunken disorder and violent disorder during the disturbances in North End, which started at 9.45pm.

The ugly scenes, which erupted in the town centre after England's 2-1 defeat, have been condemned by councillors and senior police officers, keen to play down images that Croydon is a centre for football hooliganism.

The police and council are studying CCTV images to identfy how the trouble started.

Walkabout doorman John Behan, who recorded the riot on his mobile phone, said: "The place had been full to capacity since 4pm.

"The mood was very good right up until the last two goals but it turned ugly soon after that. Someone smashed glass at bar staff, another starting tipping tables over and someone else threw a bottle at the DJ.

"By this time about 200 people had gathered outside. There were around 40 or 50 troublemakers. More people came out of Yates and Edwards and joined the crowd.

"A tram rung its bell for them to get out of the way and they smashed windows and pulled windscreen wipers off. As soon as the police turned up they started throwing bottles.

"There was one English guy who just happened to be wearing a blue top, quite similar to the French strip, and was beaten up.

"A girl also got hit in the face with a bottle.

"I've seen a few big fights in clubs but I've never seen anything like that before."

Police say the crowd had swelled to around 400 outside Brannigans when riot police moved in and between 20 and 40 officers dispersed the main mob into smaller crowds where they were able to move them towards South End. The crowds had dispersed by 11pm.

Officers, a lot of whom were young and inexperienced, were showered with broken glass.

One officer suffered a broken wrist, while another received a cut to the face.

Superintendent Nick Jupp, of Croydon police, described the scene as "intimidating".

He said: "The last two goals were the catalyst for the disorder after drinking on a long, hot day.

"They should be ashamed of their behaviour. It is totally unacceptable for police officers to be injured as a result of a small minority of people reacting to a football result."

Croydon was one of many towns and cities across the UK which experienced violence after the match.

Extra police will be drafted in to Croydon for England's game against Switzerland tomorrow (Thursday) and Monday's clash with Croatia.

While Supt Jupp said this was an isolated incident, the disturbance has left a black cloud hanging over the town's beleaguered night-time economy.

Council officials who have worked hard to improve the town's reputation for drunken disorder are disgusted at Sunday's antics.

Councillor Paul Smith, cabinet member for public protection, said: "I suspect that a combination of too much drink, unusually hot weather and an unexpected result provoked this inexcusable display of immaturity."

A spokesman for the Walkabout pub said that most of their pints were served in plastic glasses, adding: "As far as we are aware, aside from an isolated incident involving two punters, there were no problems in the pub."

A spokesman for Tramlink said the damage to their tram was minimal. The driver and passengers were uninjured.

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