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UEFA to probe Slovakia-England match trouble

© Reuters 2002

By Stephen Wood

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Soccer's European governing body UEFA has launched an investigation into crowd trouble and alleged racist abuse during England's 2-1 victory over Slovakia in Saturday's 2004 European championship qualifier in Bratislava.

UEFA said on Sunday that the match referee's report had made reference to racist abuse directed at England's two black players, Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole.

Mike Lee, UEFA director of communications, said the clashes between police and English supporters would also be probed.

"There will be an investigation," Lee told Reuters. "The referee's report has already been received and he (Italian Domenico Messina) does make reference to the abuse of Heskey and Cole.

"We will receive the UEFA match delegate's report later (on Sunday) ... after that we will decide whether further investigation will be needed.

"Depending on the evidence the case could be referred to the disciplinary body (of UEFA).

"In the second part of the investigation, we will need to find out what exactly happened in terms of policing and the incidents between police and English supporters."

The crowd disturbances in Bratislava occurred towards the end of the first half.

England were trailing 1-0 when baton-wielding police moved into the section containing visiting fans. The trouble lasted for 15-20 minutes up to halftime and involved some 300 England fans.

Lee said: "We need to look at the facts...We will speak to the (English) FA, the Slovakian FA, the local police and England fans."

The issue of racist abuse has been thrown into the spotlight in recent weeks after several incidents when England-based players have been the victims of abuse. On Thursday UEFA issued a 10-point plan to tackle racism.

Slovakia could face a heavy punishment if UEFA take action against racist taunts. Sanctions available to the body range from fining the Slovak Football Association to ordering them to play their next home game behind closed doors.

The investigation will also focus on Slovakia's trip to play England in the 'return' Euro 2004 qualifier on June 11 next year.

"UEFA utterly deplores any form of racism," Lee said.

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