Legia Warsaw have issued a statement levying the blame at Aston Villa after the two sides’ explosive Europa Conference League clash at Villa Park on Thursday evening which saw away fans unable to watch the match from the stadium and Polish ultras take part in displays of violence outside of the ground.
The Premier League side tabled a formal complaint with UEFA on Friday in the wake of the disquieting scenes which pointed a finger at club officials for a ‘complete lack of cooperation with West Midlands Police, Aston Villa FC, and UEFA throughout the day’.
The Polish club are expected to be hit with a stadium ban after what Villa claims were ‘planned and systemic acts of violence’ outside of Villa Park which saw multiple police injured, one officer set on fire, and flares and missiles thrown at home supporters.
46 men were arrested and charged by West Midlands Police, with a special court set up to begin hearing the cases at Birmingham Magistrates on Saturday, with 45 of the 46 were due to appear there, and one individual bailed until a later date.
But Legia Warsaw have refuted Villa’s front-footed statement and instead held the club’s ticket distribution policy and matchday policing to blame for the chaos.
Legia Warsaw ultras clashed with fans and ranks of police outside Villa Park on Thursday night
Away fans were not let into Villa Park to see the 2-1 following disturbances outside the ground
Police were set on fire with flare, and five officers were injured, plus police dogs and horses
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Arguing that Villa as the host club have ‘a responsibility to ensure an adequate level of security both inside the stadium and its immediate surroundings’, Legia Warsaw stressed that none of the individuals charged had matchday tickets and that they have ‘consistently maintained that our responsibility extends only to individuals entering the visitors’ sector with tickets distributed by us.’
‘Our staff arrived in Birmingham earlier than usual and maintained continuous communication with the English club, UEFA, and the local police,’ the statement read. ‘We have repeatedly informed the British counterparts about necessary measures for the security of the venue and its vicinity.
‘Despite this, the British police, in their official responses, only acknowledged the potential risks without implementing our suggestions. Regrettably, due to the actions and inactions of Aston Villa FC, adverse incidents occurred yesterday.
‘By disregarding our constructive feedback, the host club bears full responsibility for the situation.’
The statement went on to claim: ‘Aston Villa FC breached UEFA regulations multiple times – initially by not allocating the required 2,100 tickets (5% of the stadium’s capacity), then reducing the agreed 1,700 tickets to just 890. Such decisions contributed to the escalation of tensions.
‘We have repeatedly highlighted the emotional impact on numerous individuals from Poland and the UK who, despite incurring high travel and accommodation costs, were denied tickets, contrary to the inter-club agreement of 21 September.
‘The host club and the British authorities were fully aware of these circumstances. Respecting the host’s responsibility for security, we consistently communicated the British restrictions through our club channels.’
The club, the statement reads ‘strongly objects to being blamed for Thursday incidents’, and ends with insisting that visiting fans to Warsaw are safely accomodated, with their commitment to those safety measures ‘consistently recognised’ by club representatives – including Aston Villa’s.
The pointed statement comes in response to Villa’s complaint which detailed the various ways in which the club believes that Legia Warsaw representatives’ actions over the club’s away fan ticket allowance were ‘entirely unacceptable and deeply disappointing’.
Chris Heck, President of Business Operations at Aston Villa, added: ‘This behaviour increased the danger that West Midlands Police officers and our own fans were subjected to before the game and the scenes of disorder from the Legia fans have no place in modern football or civilised society.’
West Midlands Police charged 46 individuals, 45 of whom will be tried today in a special court
But Legia Warsaw have said they will not accept responsibility for fans without tickets to the tie
Thursday’s nights events appeared to have disturbing parallels with supporter violence redolent of the ‘bad old days’ of football hooliganism in England, and speaking after the events, the head of the UK’s Football Policing Unit Chief Constable Mark Roberts, calling for Legia Warsaw to be thrown out of the tournament.
‘Sadly Legia have become well known in Europe for appalling fan behaviour,’ Roberts said on Friday.
‘From a police perspective they are extremely difficult to manage and there comes a point when you have to ask where police and public safety outweighs the needs of the competition.’
Following the 2-1 defeat at Villa Park, Legia Warsaw sit second in the Group E table, and look likely to qualify to the knockout rounds behind first-placed Villa.