EVERY time there is violence at a football game, we witness the same script. Journalists file indignant reports slamming the hooligans and lamenting the state of Cyprus football, followed by the politicians who use adjectives like ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shameful’ to condemn the violence and demand action from the state.
“Hooligans win in the derby of shame,” read one headline while another said, “Shock once again for society.” As usual, everyone expressed relief we “are not crying for victims.”
Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, who said the clashes between fans were a “disgrace”, demanded that everyone took their share of responsibility for what was happening. He was referring to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), which is dragging its feet over the introduction of the ID cards for fans, and political parties that oppose it on the spurious grounds the card would be a violation of person data. The protection of personal data is always used by politicians as an excuse for protecting wrongdoers.
Nicolaou has a point because the government prepared a package of measures to tackle violence at football matches three years ago. The most important of these was the introduction of the ID card that would allow the authorities to keep track of potential troublemakers and find them when they were involved in violence. The CFA has still not introduced it, and its reluctance is backed by political parties and the football clubs. Other measures, for which the clubs were responsible – using stewards to carry out body searches of fans going into grounds, ensuring they sit in the right places and keeping records of the buyer of each ticket – have not been enforced properly, while stadiums have not installed adequate CCTV systems.
While the police are bringing more hooligans before the courts and judges are imposing tough sentences, the CFA and the clubs which control it have shirked their responsibilities, predictably pretending that hooliganism was not their problem. They feel that by issuing statements condemning violence they are doing their part. The only way to make the clubs take responsibility and help enforce measures is to make them pick up the bill for policing. If the home club was made to pay the policing bill for high risk games, clubs would soon abandon their irresponsible stance. Only when there is a financial cost for the clubs for policing will they help the authorities’ efforts to crack down on hooliganism. And if they refuse to pay the bill, police could call off a match.
It is high time the authorities got tough with the irresponsible club bosses who seem to think that tackling violence at football matches has nothing to do with them.