Lille imply United should be thrown out of competition

22nd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) - Lille director general Xavier Thuilot implied Manchester United should be thrown out of the Champions League following incidents involving their supporters in Tuesday night's match.

PARIS, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) - Lille director general Xavier Thuilot implied Manchester United should be thrown out of the Champions League following incidents involving their supporters in Tuesday night's match.

Thuilot compared the situation to the exclusion of Dutch club Feyenoord from Europe's second-tier competition following trouble by their supporters at French club Nancy in December.

Echoes of the Hillsborough tragedy were seen in the encounter at the Felix-Bollaert stadium, won 1-0 by United after a disputed Ryan Giggs freekick, when French riot police used tear gas to quell what they believed was an uncontrollable situation unfolding.

Hemmed-in supporters behind one of the goals came through a gap in the perimeter fencing after about 5,000 fans were squeezed together on a terrace designed for just 3,500.

Thuilot, alongside club president Michel Seydoux, said at a press conference early Thursday: "UEFA gave the green light to our security measures on the morning of the match so if they punish us they are in effect punishing themselves.

"Manchester United are imposing their own brand of the law to Lille football club, to the Felix-Bollaert stadium and to UEFA.

"There was a real will on their part to impose their side of the story right from the full-time whistle because the club knows what's at stake following incidents involving their supporters.

"It's up to UEFA to rule on the issue, but we are clearly in the same category as Feyenoord."

Thuilot continued: "We sent Manchester their quota of tickets several weeks ago which is usual practice.

"However the English club distributed the tickets a month ago instead of giving them to their supporters as they came off the coaches at the stadium.

"This resulted in very good forgeries being made allowing supporters access to the stand which had been reserved for them."

The disciplinary committee of European football's governing body UEFA will be meeting on March 22 to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile Lille are making a protest concerning the goal, adding their annoyance was neither the validity of the goal nor the allocation of the freekick, but that Dutch referee Eric Braamhaar encouraged Giggs to take the freekick quickly.

The Lille officials continued: "Mr Braamhaar went beyond his rights and his role as a football referee," by influencing the course of the match in United's favour. "His behaviour showed that he was not being impartial."

Thuilot said the entrenched position of both sides was not helping the issue.

"We aren't very happy with the polarised nature in this affair," Thuilot told Thursday's edition of L'Equipe. "Clubs like Feyenoord have been strongly punished after the behaviour of their supporters and you can't only have one point of view.

"As we are being attacked, it is making us more entrenched in our views and makes us want to go as far as we can in stating our case. We are calm about all this.

"Some English supporters came to express their anger over here which they can't do back home."

At least two supporters, one a schoolboy, were lifted over the barrier while security officials slammed shut a gate which had been pushed open by United supporters trying to relieve the pressure.

It was a chilling reminder of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in an FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest after a crush at the Lepping Lane of Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

Ironically Lille play their European matches at Lens because their Metropole stadium does not meet UEFA standards. The return match of this last 16 fixture takes place at Old Trafford on March 7.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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