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FSF concerned about Serbian situation after bad treatment of Bolton fans.

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The FSF’s International Co-ordinator Kevin Miles has expressed grave concerns about the way Bolton Wanderers fans were treated in Belgrade on Thursday night – and believes serious consideration should be given as to whether the Serbian capital is a suitable venue for Uefa Cup ties.

Wanderers were in Belgrade for their group game with Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night, but several hundred supporters were kept in the Hotel National and prevented from entering the city centre prior to the match.
There have been suggestions from within Serbia that the police’s over-zealous approach was prompted by domestic disturbances in Belgrade last weekend, which involved a serious assault on a plain clothes policeman during a game between Red Star and Hadjuk Kula.

But Miles maintains there can be no excuses for the heavy-handed manner in which Bolton Wanderers’ fans were herded into the Hotel National on Thursday – and says if that’s the only way visiting supporters’ safety can be guaranteed in Belgrade then Uefa shouldn’t be staging ties there.

“Bolton fans aren’t the first to experience these kind of problems when attending football matches in Belgrade, and this sort of treatment of football fans of any nationality is completely unacceptable”, Miles said.

“If these sort of procedures are the only way in which the authorities feel they can guarantee the safety of visiting supporters then surely the question has to be asked, should the Serbian capital be allowed to host Uefa Cup ties at all?

“In terms of English supporters, enormous strides have been made in terms of the conduct and reputation of English fans travelling abroad, and we have certainly earned the right to be treated as nothing less than welcome guests.”

And Bolton Wanderers have released an official club statement condemning the way their travelling supporters were treated by Serbian police.

"The directors, management, and players of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, wish to express their frustration and disappointment at the way the club’s supporters have been treated upon their arrival in Belgrade ahead of Thursday’s UEFA Cup match," the statement read.

"The club and its travel partner TMG share the anger and discontent felt by our supporters detained temporarily by the Serbian police at the Hotel National, without reasonable explanation, and sympathise with those who have subsequently been prevented from visiting Belgrade city centre before the match.

"This sentiment is shared by the UEFA delegation, the Football Association, the British Embassy, the president of Red Star Belgrade and travelling British police. Strong and intensive representations to the Serbian police have been made continuously since this incident arose.
"However, all attempts to resolve this situation have met with the response of "the matter is under consideration" from the Belgrade police. The actions of the Serbian police have been made entirely unilaterally and with no prior warning or agreement with Bolton Wanderers FC or other relevant parties.

"Bolton Wanderers FC are fully aware of a crowd order situation that arose last Sunday (when a Serbian police officer was attacked with flares), and we do understand that this may have increased security issues for the local police.

"There have also been unconfirmed reports that Serbian police have received specific intelligence suggesting Bolton supporters may be at risk of attack in Belgrade city centre. However, the club is seeking further information and clarification.

"Bolton Wanderers wish to state that the health, safety and wellbeing of all our supporters remain the number one priority for the football club. However, until any further information is available on this matter, we wish to apologise for any inconvenience that these unfortunate events have caused our supporters."

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