Opinion: Fan safety should always be paramount

Tear gas used on Everton fans in LilleIt should always be of the upmost importance that football fans be kept safe before, during and after any football match that they attend.

Whether it be a 65 year old veteran home fan, or a young supporter attending his or her very first away match, the safety of fans have to be the number one priority for those in a position to keep the peace.

Which is why yesterday’s and today’s rough punishment, handed out to the travelling hordes of Evertonians, by the police force in Lille should rightly be met with such disgust and disdain.

A number of Everton fans were attacked, by a group of at least fifty Lille ‘supporters’, late last night whilst they soaked up the atmosphere ahead of an eagerly anticipiated Europa League clash, between the two alleged favourites to progress from a tough looking group H. The police’s reaction to Evertonians asking for help and/or safety? The firing of tear gas to ‘disperse the crowds’ and bring back the peace.

Despite this rough treatment, the incident could have been put down as a one off situation ahead of what could have been an enjoyable city break watching our Club play away from home in the flesh.

Until today’s unsavoury incident.

Despite numerous reports coming from Evertonians, on social media website Twitter, that there was no provocation or threatening behaviour made towards the French police, officers saw fit to fire tear gas canisters and, allegedly, rubber bullets into the crowds of Toffees supporters who were savouring the atmosphere in and around the Place du Général de Gaulle in the centre of Lille.

This is not the first time that a heavy handed approach has been used in Lille, with police notably using batons and firing tear gas into the away section during a match between Lille and Manchester United back in 2007.

Such unprovoked behaviour gives grave cause for concern, especially with news breaking that children and disabled fans have travelled to watch the Blues in action, and should not be tolerated in this day and age.

Any supporter who attends a football match should come home safe and sound, and not have to be subjected to any kind of excessive force from those in a position that are supposed to provide safety.

Everyone here at NSNO hopes that all Evertonians, who have travelled, are safe and well and that each and every one of you returns home unscathed after, hopefully, watch our beloved team claim all three points this evening.

Tom Power

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Tom Power is a 28 year old trainee journalist and assistant editor of NSNO.

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