Cyprus Mail

Hooligan bill ‘well on its way’

Police plan to invoice clubs for policing football matches which cost just under a million each year

By Constantinos Psillides

THE bill tackling football hooliganism will be put to a plenum vote on July 10, said House Legal Affairs Committee chairman Soteris Sampson yesterday, despite ongoing disagreements between the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) and the justice ministry.

CFA head Kostakis Koutsokoumnis’ main point of disagreement was that the bill provides penalties for fans and clubs, which he argues is against UEFA and FIFA regulations.

“The CFA is the competent and recognised authority for passing down sentences for clubs. The state cannot substitute for the CFA in that respect,” he said.

Although the bill states that the penalties would be lifted on the clubs if the hooligans are brought to justice, Koutsokoumnis said: “If the House votes for the bill in its current form, substituting the CFA in sentencing clubs… then we are going to get in trouble,” he added.

Both Koutsokoumnis and representatives from the clubs also protested a provision detailing how clubs would be invoiced by police for patrolling matches.

Koutsokoumnis claimed that this equalled a further cost for football clubs, “when at the same time earnings from football matches are down by €5 million”.
Clubs paying for match policing was also suggested by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides in a recent report.

“We feel that is fair and just, especially under current, dire financial circumstances, that the CFA should find a way to cover some of the policing expenses, which are now almost exclusively covered by the state. That cost should be covered exclusively by the CFA and its football club members, possibly by increasing ticket prices,” Michaelides wrote in his report.

According to the report, almost a million euros is spent each year in policing football matches (€953,575) of which €400,000 is covered by the Cyprus Sports Organisation–which is funded by the government – and the rest by the state.

It is estimated that clubs will have to pay €20 per hour per police officer to effectively police matches. Koutsokoumnis also pointed out that clubs were also burdened with paying for stewards.

The CFA seems to be content when it comes to the fan card, a special identification that will be issued for anyone who wishes to purchase tickets for a football match. Koutsokoumnis said that the CFA would take on the responsibility of carrying out registrations and collecting personal data, adding that their objections are minor.

The CFA head didn’t go into detail regarding those objections. The fan card is a hotly debated issue with fans, many of whom fiercely object to it.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told the press that the bill is “well on its way” and stressed that it should be ready to be implemented by the next season.

“If we are serious about tackling violence in sports then we have no other option than to vote this bill, so as to send the message that we are determined to deal with hooliganism,” said Nicolaou.

Responding to a question regarding the fan card, Nicolaou said that a central registry covering all sports will be established and that the cost of issuing a card will be €15.

Committee chairman Sampson said they wanted the bill ready for a plenum vote on July 10 but he said it must be a functional law.

“It’s one thing to vote for a law and a whole other thing to vote for a law that is both functional and effective. Everybody’s aim is to battle hooliganism and violent behaviour both within the stadiums and outside,” he said.

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