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Feb 21, 2007

Chaos in Lille: Should they be booted out?

Lille's shambolic handling of Tuesday night's Champions League clash will almost certainly result in UEFA handing out a stiff punishment, but should they be booted out of the competition?

• What do you think of the events in Lille? Email the newsdesk with your views

The European tie began with away fans being sprayed with tear gas as they attempted to escape an overcrowded section of the stadium and concluded with the Ligue 1 hosts petulantly threatening to leave the pitch.

Lille moved the match to Lens' 42,000 capacity Felix-Bollaert Stadium because their own ground was not up to scratch, but the switch of venue did not prevent a security blunder that allowed too many fans into the away section. TV pictures showed French riot police using batons and tear gas on United supporters as they scrambled over a fence to escape the crush.

Reports indicate that gates at the back of the stand had been opened by police to allow Red Devils supporters with tickets for the home section of the stadium to sit with their own fans. Officials later opened and second section of the stadium to allow fans to spread out but United are demanding action by UEFA, who have launched a probe into the incident.

• Read Your Verdict on the chaos here.

Manchester United secretary Ken Ramsden revealed the club would met with the relevant governing bodies to discuss the bungle and Sports Minister Richard Caborn has pleaded with UEFA to ensure grounds used for the Champions League meet minimum safety requirements.

'I think some of the grounds are not coming up to what even UEFA are saying are the minimum standards,' he said.

'I think one's got to be asking UEFA are they now going to be taking action with those grounds that are not coming up to the standards?'

The Lille debacle began the day before the match when Sir Alex Ferguson's side were barred from training on an a pitch that was declared unfit for the purpose and resulted in both teams changing tactics to cope with the poor surface for the first leg of their last 16 knockout clash.

Soon after kick-off the first of three more serious incidents began when crowd congestion in the away stand resulted in a number of Red Devils supporters being injured and carried to safety, according to eye witnesses at the match.

As the second-half progressed Lille striker Peter Odemwingie had a goal ruled out for a push on defender Nemanja Vidic and when Ryan Giggs scored with a quickly taken freekick the French club's protestations resulted in the second major talking point of the night.

Urged on by a member of the French club's coaching staff the disgruntled players reluctantly began to leave the pitch in an act on unprofessionalism that resulted in confused scenes on the touchline, a delay in the game and hostile atmosphere in the stadium.

In a third incident Gary Neville was hit by one of many missiles launched from the stands by the home support and United manager Ferguson was scathing in his assessment of the troubled tie.

'After we scored, it was disgraceful,' blasted Ferguson. 'It was clear intimidation and it triggered a bad reaction from the fans.

'Gary Neville was hit on the head by an object thrown from the crowd.

'We should never see that in football. There was clearly a hostile atmosphere from the crowd.

'I think I have seen bad behaviour in football. It's an emotional game, but I have not seen that before.'

Lille will undoubtedly be punished for Tuesday night's episodes and in the worst case scenario could face the same punishment as Dutch club Feyenoord, who were recently booted out of this season's UEFA Cup due to crowd trouble in France.

• But what do you think of the events in Lille? What punishment should the Ligue 1 club receive? Email the newsdesk with your views