Football fans clash in Cardiff

Nine football fans have been charged after clashing on the streets of Cardiff before the Worthington Cup final.

Police made 16 arrests on Saturday night as Cardiff City fans met with supporters from Birmingham.

In a night of sporadic outbursts, one person was assaulted and nine were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Seven were charged with public order offences, one with criminal damage and another with posessing drugs.

They are to appear before Cardiff magistrates next month. Three more remain in custody.

Forced to close

The violence closed St Mary Street in the city centre for two hours ad, in one incident, the street’s Philharmonic bar was smashed up when rivals rioted. Three nearby pubs were forced to close.

Police said the situation was under control by 0030hrs.

Officers were stretched to their limits on Saturday with incidents across the city.

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said: “There have been pockets of disorder involving rival fans across the city as they come out of pubs.

“Incidents are not concentrated in one place. The most serious so far have been assault.”

Police have been preparing for the possibility of large-scale riots breaking out on Sunday.

There are also fears that hooligans attached to Cardiff City, who have one of the worst reputations in the UK, may seek confrontations with Birmingham’s notorious “Zulu Warriors”.

The Bluebirds were playing at Kidderminster on Sunday, buts fans are expected to return home as the Worthington Cup clash ends.

Bluebirds fans have reportedly been using the internet to arrange clashes with Birmingham’s minority element.

The South Wales Police spokesman said: “It has been quite minor.

Hopefully it will not get worse on Sunday because most people will be going home after the match.”

Advice to drivers

Drivers are being asked to avoid the city centre, as key routes will close in preparation for the arrival of up to 70,000 football fans.

Police expected 4,000 to 5,000 fans to arrive in Cardiff by train. The vast majority are expected to arrive in minibuses or specially-hired coaches, most on Sunday.

Officers from Liverpool and Birmingham are also travelling to Cardiff to help with policing.

Chief Supterintendent Gerald Toms said: “There will be 700 officers in Cardiff – quite a substantial number.”

“That’s just to ensure that everything goes well.”

Pristine pitch

The Worthington Cup and FA Cup finals are being played outside England for the first time because of the closure of Wembley Stadium, which is due to be rebuilt.

The Millennium Stadium has staged a number of football fixtures – including two during last year’s Rugby League World Cup – but the quality of the surface caused concern when Wales tackled Norway in a World Cup qualifier last November.

But stadium bosses have relaid a new pitch and believe the playing surface is in pristine condition for the showpiece occasion.

It was announced earlier this year that the FA Cup and Worthington Cup finals would be played at the 73,434-seater stadium for at least the next four years while Wembley is rebuilt.

The FA Cup Final will also be staged at the stadium on 12 May.