Russian football authorities pledge to kick hooligans into touch

The president of the Russian Football Union, Sergey Fursenko, has announced the release of a document meant to ease tension between football fans and the police, and also to get rid of football hooligans.

Russia is preparing to host football’s biggest spectacle, the FIFA World Cup, in 2018. Plenty remains to be done including the construction of several stadiums across the country.

The Russian police, the Football Union and organized fan groups are now attempting something equally important – making the relationship between spectators and the authorities more, in a word, civilized.

The current season, however, the first since Russia was given the right to host the World Cup, has shown that much, if not everything, needs to be changed.

The trouble began in May during a match between Krylya Sovetov and Spartak Moscow, and several other major clashes followed involving Moscow and St Petersburg fans during their teams’ away games.

After the game in Samara, the problem that’s obvious to any regular matchgoer, took centre stage with Russian lawmakers. But it took a few more months and several other incidents for football bosses, the Sports Ministry and other authorities to begin attempts at tackling the issue.

Vandalism and barbaric behavior have become expected at matches featuring Russia’s top football teams.

Now there is seldom a matchday in the Russian Premier League that goes without a team being fined for its fans’ thuggish actions.

“This year the number of law infringements and incidents of improper behavior has grown by almost 50%. The use of pyrotechnics at stadiums hasn’t decreased even though it’s prohibited by law. Vandalism is another serious problem, causing real expense to owners. We have to stop this situation from escalating. Mutual efforts by police and club workers are required, including preparation before matches, volunteer work, and the presence of special police members ensuring safety,” says Chief of Public Security Yury Demidov.

The Russian Football Union, the police, fan groups and the Ministry of Sport say they are seeking a solution to this problem. Separating the fans from hooligans and limiting the presence of special police forces at stadiums are the prime focus of the newly-created forum.

“We want to have a document that clearly defines the role of each of the participants, their rights and obligations at the stadium. The document will clearly state what fans can bring to each particular sector and what is forbidden under all circumstances. The number of offences decreases if rules are strictly observed. I think that all parties are going to sign this document soon,” Fursenko explains.

So with seven years remaining until Russia’s international invitation to share the World Cup, the fight to give hooligans the red card has at last kicked off.

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