Aston Villa vs Legia Warsaw: Violent scenes outside Villa Park as three police officers injured, Legia fans refused entry
A police officer was taken to hospital with burns and two others injured amid violent clashes with Legia Warsaw supporters before Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie at Villa Park.
Legia supporters threw flares, bottles, tree branches and other assorted objects at mounted officers as tempers flared outside the stadium an hour before the scheduled 8pm kick-off, in what Villa later described as “planned and systematic acts” of violence.
West Midlands police said three officers were injured, with one suffering burn injuries after being hit by a flare.
The match kicked off with the away section completely empty, with the majority of Legia fans penned in a coach park adjacent to Witton Lane, where most of the trouble took place. Shortly afterward, West Midlands police confirmed all visiting supporters would be barred from entering the ground.
Legia fans had expressed their displeasure in the build-up to the fixture at their ticket allocation being reduced by more than a half from the 2,100 they would normally be permitted under Uefa rules.
That decision was taken by the UK Safety Advisory Group, following a recommendation from the police who were concerned at the Polish club’s fans’ track record of causing trouble.
Legia’s supporters were banned from their previous Group E match at Zrinjski Mostar after Dutch police were injured before a match at AZ Alkmaar.
Despite the reduced allocation at Villa, more than 1,000 supporters were claimed to have travelled to the UK without tickets. That ensured a large police presence at the ground, with Witton Lane closed three hours prior to kick-off.
In a statement on Thursday night, Legia blamed Villa for “exacerbating” the atmosphere with the ticket situation, even though Villa say the decision to reduce the allocation was not of their doing.
Villa, meanwhile, hit out at Legia’s lack of co-operation in the build-up to the fixture, claiming they had repeatedly warned the visiting club and Uefa ticketless fans were intent on getting into the ground.
A Villa statement read: “Approximately an hour before kick-off, Legia fans engaged in planned and systematic violent acts against West Midlands Police officers and a decision was then made by West Midlands Police to exclude all Legia supporters.
“Aston Villa strongly condemns the behaviour of those visiting supporters and would like to thank West Midlands Police for their professionalism in very difficult circumstances.”
A West Midlands police statement, issued shortly after kick-off, read: "We're currently unable to allow away fans into Villa Park following disorder outside the stadium which has seen missiles thrown.
“Three officers have already been injured & a significant policing operation continues. Please avoid Witton Lane where possible."