Fears are growing that an all-English Champions League final, and in particular one that pits Liverpool against Manchester United, would see European football’s showpiece event in Athens disrupted by serious crowd trouble.
Uefa insisted publicly that there was “no apprehension” last night but concerns have been raised behind the scenes.
Manchester United and Liverpool share a particularly intense rivalry and it is thne prospect of these sides meetsing which is causing the authorities most concern at present.
“Fans, many of whom will not have tickets, will be mixing on their journeys, at airports, on planes and when they arrive in Athens,” a Greek security source told The Guardian. “This is a nightmare scenario as far as security is concerned and a recipe for serious crowd trouble.”
The clubs involved in the final will be allocated 17,000 tickets each, although given their huge support there will be many fans travelling to the Greek capital without tickets.
The chief superintendent Dave Lewis of Merseyside Police confirmed they would “support the policing operation of the hosts” should Liverpool reach the final.
“If it’s an all-English match, then we’ll need advice from the British police,” said William Gaillard, Uefa’s chief spokesman.
“But we’re not apprehensive. We had thousands of Liverpool fans in Istanbul and it was difficult in terms of logistics, getting them to and from the airport. But we do not have such a loaded situation in Athens because facilities are easy to get to.”
Concerns have also been expressed about United’s semi-final second leg in Milan on May 2, coming only 28 days after their supporters battled with Italian police in Rome.
“But it is a different club, a different city and different circumstances,” said Gaillard. “I think people have learned the lessons.” The sides met two years ago without any problems.