Russian football officials dream of making stadiums safe

The Russian Football Union is to introduce a number of new rules to make attending a game in the country a more attractive proposition for the general public.

New procedures are aimed at providing improved security for football fans at Premier League games, following a number of high-profile incidents at grounds across the country over the last month.

The draft law has now been tabled in public, and crucially it will prohibit the use of fireworks during matches, and will introduce family areas within stadiums.

The rules are set to be approved in the next few weeks.

Hooliganism in sports stadiums is up 50 percent from last year, and police are now being encouraged to let stewards look after security at games.

Supporters of Spartak Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg and Dynamo have been the main culprits.

However, according to the Russian Premier League’s head of security, Aleksandr Meytin, heavy-handed policing has been the main cause of football violence in Russia.

“The main problem we are facing is with the organization of games,” he said.

“Different styles of policing, the quality of the stadiums and other factors can have a massive impact on the way fans behave,” he said. “If the police act in a civilized way toward the fans, then there is no source of provocation.”

Meytin admits there is a problem with hooliganism in Russia, but states that this is also a problem among a number of countries in Europe. However, the spotlight is clearly on Russia to clean up its act, as it will host the World Cup in 2018.

A complete change is needed in the way security is dealt with at stadiums across the country, he suggested.

“Fans and the security forces need to respect one another in Russia,” Meytin declared. “When there is respect and understanding between the two parties, there aren’t any problems. We are all in the same boat.”

“I would like to see stewards replacing the police at football grounds, because when fans see lines of riot police in front of them, they become much more aggressive,” he said.

The police have been seen as the main cause of the problem by Russian football fans, who have long called for stewards to be the sole security force in the country’s stadiums.

And the police’s public security chief, Yury Demidov, who spoke about the matter last week, admits that something has to be done.

“We are very interested in the police playing a much smaller role in organizing security at football games in Russia,” he stated. “We need to train security personnel and stewards to carry out this job. The police should not try to provoke the situation, but rather try and work with the fans. Both parties need to work together.”

Things are slowly starting to improve. The Zenit St. Petersburg fan who threw a banana at Anzhi’s star captain Roberto Carlos has been identified and banned from the stadium, though he will not face any criminal proceedings.

However, there is still a very long way to go until football in Russia becomes an activity where parents would not think twice about taking their children to watch a game.

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