Euro 2016: Police Say There Have Been 557 Arrests So Far

Euro 2016 is not even halfway through, and already 557 soccer fans have been arrested for a variety of crimes. France’s interior minister revealed that 557 “violent supporters” had been detained, with 344 of them being held by police. The government said that 21 fans have been sent to jail, 25 people were being deported, and six had been given suspended jail sentences.

In one instance, a French-Albanian man smuggled a flare in his rectum into a Euro 2016 fan zone and injured two people when it went off. The man managed to get a 7-inch by 1.6-inch flare past the security pat down by putting it in a condom. When he set it off he burned himself and two other people sending them to the hospital.

With the real threat of terror attacks on everyone’s mind, violence by the fans is making an already tense situation even scarier. Last week, three Belgian citizens were arrested and charged with attempting to commit terrorist murder and taking part in the activities of a terror group after authorities were alerted to the possibility of an attack on fans watching the Belgium vs. Ireland match. Nine others were also arrested during the raids carried out to foil the plot.

On Saturday, the Euro 2016 games took a particularly dark turn when Russian soccer fans launched what witnesses called “savage coordinated attacks” around Marseille while dressed in English team shirts and equipped with weapons. The situation began when English fans started fights with Russian fans before the Group B match. Things were so out of control that UEFA issued a warning to the fans that both the English and the Russian teams faced expulsion from the Euro 2016 tournament if the violence continued.

There is heavy speculation that the Russian hooligans were sanctioned by the Kremlin and actually had ties to Vladamir Putin’s regime. The violence was so severe that two England fans are in a coma after being beaten with hammers and iron bars by the Russian supporters. While outwardly condemning the violence, Putin was also quick to downplay it saying “I don’t know how 200 fans could hurt several thousand Englishmen.”

Three Russian citizens have already appeared in court and were sentenced to one to two years in prison and were banned from entering France for two years after their release. Twenty of the 25 people being deported from France are Russian citizens. The violence and questions surrounding the possible backing of the Kremlin behind the attacks raises even more concerns about Russia hosting the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup. If in fact Putin was not behind the brutal attacks, then Russia’s inability to control their supporters is a red flag for the upcoming events there.

UEFA also fined Croatia for the crowd’s behavior during their game with the Czech Republic. Fans were fighting and started throwing flares onto the field, apparently injuring a steward when he was trying to clear a firework from the pitch and it went off. While the team was off, Croatia players went over to the fans to ask them to stop causing trouble. Nonetheless, the team was fined and told not to sell tickets to any “hooligans.”

Euro 2016 will see 24 teams competing for the first time, up from 16 teams which had been the norm since 1996. Spain is the two-time returning champions having won in 2008 and 2012. The semi-finals for Euro 2016 will be played July 6 and 7 and the final game will be played July 10.

[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]