Fleetwood chairman posed with 'Cod Army' flag before fans were tear gassed outside Marseille restaurant

Four Fleetwood Town fans posed with club chairman and owner Andy Pilley outside a Marseille restaurant - shortly before they came under-fire from French police.

Sunday, 12th June 2016, 1:27 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:25 pm
From left to right, Mark Ratcliffe, Kevin Morris, Sam Ratcliffe, and a friend, with a flag they had made for Euro 2016

The entrepreneur stopped to snap a selfie with the group's 'Cod Army' flag, which later became the backdrop of sickening violence in what Mark Ratcliffe, 50, says was a seemingly unprovoked attack.

Mark, his son Sam, friend Kevin Morris, and another pal, who did not wish to be named, were caught up in a third day of violence in the French city, ahead of England's 1-1 Euro 2016 draw with Russia.

After eating lunch, and bumping into Mr Pilley, who shared a picture of the custom-made flag on Twitter, the group sat and enjoyed the jovial pre-match atmosphere, singing songs, and drinking beer in the sunshine.

Mark, a businessman, of Hollywood Grove in Fleetwood, described how 'a wall of riot police', numbering around 50, turned a corner towards the restaurant and began launching tear gas canisters at them.

He said: "I don't know what triggered it. There was nothing going on, but there was some sort of operation from their point of view.

"They came towards us with the tear gas, and people were running away. It was hard to tell what made them act like that."

Mark took cover in a nearby lobby alongside a dozen other people, he said, as some fans retaliated by throwing missiles at the police.

Mark Ratcliffe, from Fleetwood, said riot police came out of nowhere to start firing tear gas canisters at fans

"A war broke out," he said. "That's all I can describe it as. People had had a few and the bottle throwing started, though most people were just trying to get away.

"The tear gas was horrible, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

"It immobilises you and you can't do anything. You can't see, your breathing is knackered, you are disorientated, and you are a prime candidate for a whack with a baton."

Mr Ratcliffe, who drove to France in a motor-home and plans to see England's next two group games, said the behaviour of the French police was 'unacceptable'.

Mark Ratcliffe, from Fleetwood, said riot police came out of nowhere to start firing tear gas canisters at fans

The violent clashes between rival fans and locals on the streets of Marseille left one England fan critically ill in hospital and up to 20 others hurt, the Press Association reported.

Footballing body Uefa, which has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union after the violence inside the Stade Velodrome last night, now plans to take steps to strengthen security, it announced.

A Uefa spokesman said: "Uefa expresses its utter disgust for the violent clashes that occurred in the city centre of Marseille, and its serious concern for the incidents at the end of the match inside Stade Velodrome.

"This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and has no place in football.

"Uefa acknowledges that there were segregation issues at Stade Velodrome and will implement corrective measures to strengthen the deployment of security personnel at stadiums, in close collaboration with local authorities."