The violence that marred the weekend’s FA Cup clash between Millwall and Everton was “the worst seen for some time,” Scotland Yard said.
The level of violence was unusual but it was “too early to say if this was a return to the bad old days of football.”
Violence between the home fans and visiting Toffies broke at Millwall’s New Den stadium both before kickoff and after the final whistle leaving one Everton fan scarred for life .
Away supporter Jay Burns needing more than 20 stitches, after he was slashed across the face in a confrontation caught on camera even before the match had even started.
Initially just 200 officers including mounted police were policiong the game but as the violence escalated reinforcements had to be called in who eventually managed to break the brawling fans using batons.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “It started over a number of hours.
“There was not a specific thing that caused the violence to erupt, we can say it was clearly rival groups, but I don’t know how it started.
“There were a lot of officers there, the mobility, the geography was what led to the violence escalating.
“How it got to that level will be part of the enquiry.
“It is too early to say if this was a return to the bad old days of football.
“The scale of violence we’ve seen is the worst we’ve seen for some time, especially for London, in my view it was unusual.”
The FA launched a probe into allegations of racism after footage emerged showing Millwall supporters chanting “We’d rather be a Paki than a Scouse”.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Twist said: “A lot of what happened occurred outside the stadium, but the CCTV will form part of the investigation into racist chanting.
“We are very much looking at the racism at the game.
“After the conclusion of the match, an allegation of racist chanting was made during the match and that has formed part of our enquiry.”
The mass violence on Saturday spanned hours, with the Met claiming that the ‘pre-meditated’ nature of the conflict was so far a ‘line of enquiry’.
Mr Twist said: “The violence went on for a considerable amount of time, the worst of it seen on social media and numbered up to 50 people.
“It’s too early to say who these people were.
“The abhorrent behaviour lasted for hours and involved dozens of people, it resulted in at least one serious injury – one man was taken to hospital with a horrific life-changing injury to his face.
“One of our officers was also injured and has been discharged from hospital.
“We will be doing our best to locate all of those involved in the violence.
“At the start of the operation, around 200 officers were deployed but as the situation developed, other officers, including the Met’s territorial support group, were sent down in support.
“Having watched the widespread footage of this violence circulating on social media, I am reminded of the courage and professionalism and restraint of our officers.
“I am grateful for their efforts on Saturday afternoon, their determination in restoring order was outstanding, despite furniture, bottles and glass being thrown at them as they attempted to disperse the crowd.”
Mr Twist said that a number of coaches carrying Everton away fans were also damaged during the violence, in the run-up to the game
He said: “The teamwork shown by officers across the Metropolitan Police along with colleagues from the British transport police prevented the violent situation escalating further and led to a swift solution when violence did erupt.
“Evidence gatherers put themselves in harm’s way and put them in danger and obtained significant and substantial amounts of evidence and footage of the disorder which will be really useful in the follow-up enquiry.
“We now have a highly skilled team reviewing this evidence as we speak and I am confident we will soon the know identities of those involved.
“We will use this evidence and all of the tools in our power to locate the individuals involved in this ridiculous behaviour – whether they come from London, Liverpool or elsewhere – we will bring them to justice.
“Once identified, we also proactively explore ways of restricting those individuals from engaging in further violence or attending football matches, I would urge anyone with any information to call the police or Crimestoppers anonymously.”
By Daniel Hammond