20 years ago today: Lansdowne Road riot

On February 15th 1995 English football fans rioted at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road stadium during an international friendly between England and Republic of Ireland. The riot was attributed to the neo-nazi group Combat 18.

england v ireland landsdowne 1995The match was organised at a time when the Downing Street Declaration and the 1994 IRA ceasefire had brought hope and optimism to the people of Ireland, North and South. The Celtic Tiger was on the horizon and the feelgood factor was in vogue.

It was decided that the game would kick-off at 6.15pm and that the English fans would be seated at the south end of the Upper West Stand. A lot of English fans spent the day drinking in city centre pubs and by kick-off time the atmosphere around Lansdowne Road had turned nasty.

“We said to ourselves – oh God, what idiot let them in up there!” – Ben Eglington, former RTÉ cameraman

As the National Anthems were being played, trouble was brewing. Irish fans jeered ‘God Save the Queen’, which was being played at a soccer match in Dublin for the first time since 1964, while English fans stood and gave the Nazi salute during ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’, and chanted ‘Sieg Heils’, ‘No Surrender to the IRA’ and ‘Ulster is British’.
However, nobody was prepared for what was to happen 27 minutes later.

English fans had begun ripping up seats in the Upper West Stand throughout the early stages of the match unbeknownst to officials or indeed the commentary team. When Kelly scored the flames were fuelled even more, so that when an apparent English equaliser was disallowed, it all kicked off.

Large pieces of wood, metal and other objects were fired down at those seated below the West Stand. The referee immediately stopped the match and brought the players off. Hundreds of people spilled out onto the pitch to escape the missiles from above and eventually the authorities and the referee had no option but to abandon the match. The hooligans had won the day.Their disruption had the desired result as confusion and chaos took the place of a football game.

How was this allowed to happen? It later transpired that the violence was organised by Combat 18, a British Neo-Nazi organisation, and although the Football Intelligence Unit in the UK had given the Gardaí information about the travel plans of troublemakers who intended going to Dublin, most of them got into the ground without any problem. These hooligans had obtained tickets through the official England Travel Club. The FAI also stated later that the Gardaí never made them aware of the identity of the troublemakers.

Tickets had also been returned by the English FA to the FAI and these were sold on to Irish fans. An administration error by the FAI meant that a couple of rows of Irish fans ended up slap bang in the middle of the English mob and only by the grace of God managed to escape from the mayhem. Yet another glaring error had the Garda riot squad not even in the ground when the trouble started. The riot squad eventually dealt with the hooligans in Lansdowne Road, but the damage had been done.

A government investigation later laid the blame for the violence firmly with the English fans, although it also stated that the FAI, the Gardaí and the English FA were not without fault.



Read more here: http://www.rte.ie/tv/scannal/scannallandsdowne.html

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