Police officers raise their battens as they control the crowd as Millwall play Wigan Athletic during their English FA Cup semifinal soccer match at Wembley stadium in London, Saturday, April 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
LONDON — One of English soccer’s showpiece tournaments was marred by violence at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, with Millwall fans fighting among themselves and with security officials. Police reported 10 arrests.
The disorder revived memories of the London team’s struggle with hooliganism in the 1970s. Police and stewards appeared to be slow to react as the trouble began before half time and worsened in the second half of the FA Cup match, which Wigan won 2-0 to reach the final of the competition for the first time in its history.
London police said the arrests followed “sporadic disorder among fans in the Millwall supporters’ area,” adding the investigation was ongoing. The English Football Association also launched a probe. No serious injuries were reported, but several fans were bloodied.
Over the years, Millwall fans have become known for ripping up seats at their home ground and at the stadiums of their opponents. Fans of the club, which is owned by American businessman John Berylson, made light of their unruly and violent reputation Saturday with a chant that was heard at the stadium before the outbreak of disorder: “No one likes us and we don’t care.”
In images broadcast around the world, one female Wigan fan was seen to be in tears as Millwall supporters traded punches.
“We are continuing to progress as a club, that’s our greatest challenge,” manager Kenny Jackett, who did not see any of the fighting, said. “We’ve worked very hard to do everything we possibly can to try to be trouble-free ... if crowd trouble is going to be continuously brought up with Millwall that will hold us back.”
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said the latest unrest “leaves a bad taste for the huge majority they had here — with their impeccable behavior.”
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan fears the image of English soccer has been damaged.
“I can’t understand why the Millwall fans would fight each other,” he said. “I understand if they want to fall out with the visiting team, but why would they fall out amongst themselves? It just gives football a very, very poor reputation.”
Millwall CEO Andy Ambler said, “Our position is clear. Anyone associated with our club found guilty of violent behavior will be banned indefinitely from Millwall matches in addition to any punishment they receive from the authorities.
“Having worked so hard to show the positive side of our club both on and off the field, we cannot allow the actions of a mindless minority to undermine that.”