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03/05/02 - Police injured by Millwall missiles

The Football League have condemned the "disgraceful" scenes which saw 45 police officers injured following the play-off semi-final between Millwall and Birmingham last night. Six police officers needing hospital treatment after trouble erupted following Stern John's last-minute winner which put Birmingham through to Cardiff on the back of a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

But City's victory was soon overshadowed by violence outside the ground, with several hundred disgruntled Millwall fans leaving the stadium with the aim of assaulting the Birmingham supporters. Police said they threw missiles, including bricks, paving stones, flares and fireworks.

The League have reacted by demanding tough action from police to bring the rioters to justice and prevent them from further damaging the game's reputation. Football League spokesman Ian Christon admitted: "These were disgraceful scenes and nobody wants to see that connected with football.

"In terms of disciplinary action the Football Association are responsible. We hope the police press charges against the people involved and the courts take action to ban these people from football grounds. "We don't want this kind of thing blighting an excellent season for the League and an excellent play-off competition."

Millwall president and director Reg Burr has promised to crack down on the rioters. "Millwall continue to work continuously to improve the quality of the support they have and anybody that misbehaves at Millwall is banned for life," he said. "Inside the ground the behaviour was impeccable.

"Our chairman Theo Paphitis has done a fantastic job at Millwall. We've been through difficult times before and I'm certain we'll come out of them again. "I can assure you we will do anything we can to identify any troublemakers and the appropriate action will be taken - we will ban them for life."

Birmingham chairman David Gold gave his backing to Millwall's efforts to clean up their reputation - and warned that one incident should not tarnish the image of the game. He said: "I know that Theo will be devastated. I know he is working very hard.

"Millwall sadly have this reputation. We must be very careful, you had 14,000 Millwall fans who were absolutely devastated who went home peacefully. "We've come a long way in the last 20 years when it was almost commonplace at every game. "I'm saddened by it but be careful we don't turn it into a major, major issue that football is tied to violence."
Contact : bernard.omahoney@bernardomahoney.com
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