The organizers of England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup condemned the violence that marred the West Ham-Millwall match and described the scenes as "isolated."
English soccer's efforts to try and eradicate violence from the domestic game have been hailed as successful and are a major part of the 2018 campaign as England faces tough opposition from 10 opponents.
But news that a 44-year-old man was stabbed in the chest and TV footage beamed around the world of hundreds of fans hurling bottles and bricks and riot police outside Upton Park could damage the campaign to bring the game's biggest event to England.
The Football Association called for life bans for those involved in the violence, and Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said Wednesday that the scenes at the League Cup match, which led to 13 arrests, were "a disgrace to football."
The England bid organizers issued a statement that said the scenes were regrettable.
"England 2018 shares the FA's stance in condemning the disorder surrounding last night's Carling (League) Cup fixture between West Ham and Millwall," the bid organizers said.
Because the violence involved fans from two neighboring clubs who have a history of trouble against each other, the England campaigners hope that it was a one-off incident rather than a sign that trouble is on its way back to the days of the 1970s and '80s, when fans rioted on a regular basis.
"The scenes from Upton Park were a regrettable but isolated example of a culture that the football community has worked tirelessly to eradicate from our game," the statement read. "It is extremely disappointing that the mindless actions of a tiny minority have today deflected from the passion and dedication that millions of genuine fans show every week for our national game."
While police, the FA and the Football League all began inquiries into the trouble, FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said his organization would call for life bans for the troublemakers.
"We know there have been huge efforts on the parts of all our clubs to try to eradicate the problems and we've had a history of success on that," Bevington said Tuesday. "However, we have to make sure that the individuals concerned face such tough actions that they can't go to football again.
"We all want a big atmosphere at matches. That's part of football, part of the passion. However, we also want to make sure it's a safe environment to watch games and we've just spent the best part of 20 years working towards that."
Sutcliffe said he would support any FA and police action to convict the troublemakers and kick them out of the game.
"I completely back the FA's call for any person identified as involved in the violence to be banned for life and urge full and swift co-operation from all parties in the investigation into what happened," Sutcliffe said. "We have made great progress in the past 20 years in tackling football hooliganism in this country and we will not tolerate any return to the dark days of the 70s and 80s when it plagued the game."
Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson, whose organization is responsible for English soccer's third tier competition, called on fans to make sure Tuesday's behavior would not be repeated.
"We utterly deplore the violence that took place at last night's match between West Ham United and Millwall," Williamson said. "Such behavior has no place in the game and we will work with all the relevant authorities to ensure that those behind it are held to account.
"Football has made huge progress in the last 30 years in the management of football matches and the whole game must continue to demonstrate that such behavior will not be tolerated."
England, which has also put in for the 2022 World Cup, faces rival bids from Australia, Indonesia Japan, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, the United States and joint bids from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal.
Source: AP News