Police officer dies as Europa League fans clash outside Bilbao stadium | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Police officer dies as Europa League fans clash outside Bilbao stadium

The death of the officer and violent clashes raises concerns less than four months before Russia is due to host the World Cup.

Rival football fans clash in Bilbao

Street brawls between police and rival football fans outside a stadium in Bilbao have left one Spanish officer dead.

Police in riot gear faced off against hundreds of fans outside the San Mames Stadium before a Europa League match on Thursday night between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow.

Authorities said a police officer died in hospital after the confrontations. He reportedly suffered a heart attack.

Police said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed.

Fans from both clubs were reportedly involved in the clashes which erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Five hundred officers were drafted in before the game

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium. Stones were thrown at police, who set off flares to push back crowds.

Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy offered his condolences to the family of the policeman who died and condemned the violence.

In a statement, UEFA said it "strongly condemns the violent clashes which occurred in Bilbao. We are in contact with local authorities to obtain further information on these incidents".

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The police formed ranks while trying to disrupt the fight

More than 500 police officers were deployed ahead of the game to try to prevent fan trouble.

Police made a number of arrests as the violence and injuries escalated.

"Five people have been arrested. We do not know if they are all supporters of Spartak, but many of them are Russians," a regional police spokesman said.

Russia is hosting the World Cup from 14 June and authorities are putting strict security procedures in place to try to prevent violence.

Six years ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.

After the violence in Bilbao, the Europa League match went ahead and ended 2-1 to Spartak Moscow, but Athletic Bilbao went through 4-3 on aggregate.