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FIFA backs CFA as hooligan bill moves to plenum

By Constantinos Psillides

THE international football governing body FIFA has intervened in the ongoing dispute at the House of Representatives regarding a bill tackling hooliganism by asking MPs not to interfere with the Cyprus Football Association (CFA)’s judicial authority.

In a letter sent on July 18, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke asks CFA to notify the House Legal Affairs Committee that according to articles 13 and 17 of the FIFA statutes, association members of FIFA must “manage their affairs independently and without influence from any third parties.”

This is a reference to provisions in the hooliganism bill that stipulate that teams will be punished in the event of a violent incident, if the actual perpetrators aren’t brought to justice.

CFA head Kostakis Koutsokoumnis warned legislators on July 2 that the provisions were against FIFA regulations and would pose a problem. “The CFA is the competent and recognised authority for passing down sentences for clubs. The state cannot substitute for the CFA in that respect,” Koutsokoumnis had said.

The bill is scheduled to be put a to a plenum vote on Wednesday morning. The House is in for an extraordinary session, since the Legal Affairs Committee requested more time to work on the bill so they could reach a settlement with parliamentary parties.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou has repeatedly made it clear to the parties that it is imperative the bill pass in order to tackle violence in sports.

The FIFA letter isn’t expected to derail the process, since the House can ask for the provisions in question to be stricken out during the floor debate.

The much debated bill includes two hot issues that could lead to a dead-end: the fan card – an identification which will be needed to buy tickets to sports events – and a provision forcing football teams to pay for policing matches.

Main opposition party AKEL vehemently opposes the fan card, arguing it violates human rights by allowing government officials to keep tabs on fans. AKEL issued a statement on Tuesday reiterating their position on the subject as expressed by AKEL MP Aristos Damianou.

Damianou had characterised the bill as “Thatcherite” and criticised the government on putting the bill together without sufficient discussion with all parties involved. AKEL proposed setting up a national anti-violence committee – consisting of psychologists, sociologists and other experts – to map out a “comprehensive strategy on battling football violence, with emphasis on prevention”.

AKEL will decide on Wednesday morning whether to vote for the bill, abstain or vote against.

Ruling party DISY has already come out in favour of the bill. DIKO and EDEK will vote in favour of the fan card after the government accepted an amendment asking for a transitional period in introducing it. The fan card, if the bill passes the House, will be implemented by January 1, 2015.

DISY stands alone when it comes to billing teams for police presence, since AKEL, EDEK and DIKO are against it. AKEL had argued during the Committee discussion that in a time of financial crisis it is not fair to ask teams to pay for policing, a cost that will eventually be passed to the fans by increasing ticket prices. The bill stipulates that ticket prices will go up by one euro, to cover the €500,000 needed to cover policing expenses.

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