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Our View: The state has every right to impose punishments on football clubs

EVEN FIFA, the world governing body of football, expressed an opinion about the government’s anti-hooligan bill that was approved by the legislature at an extraordinary session of the plenum on Wednesday. The FIFA general secretary sent a letter to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) a week ago asking it to inform the House legal affairs committee that according to FIFA’s statutes its “members must manage their affairs independently and without influence from third parties.”

This was a direct response to a provision of the bill which allowed state authorities to impose punitive measures on clubs if their supporters were involved in violence. The chairman of the CFA had pointed out in the past that the CFA was the competent authority for imposing punishments on the clubs and the state could not take this role. By what authority FIFA is interfering in Cyprus’ domestic affairs we do not know. Do FIFA’s statutes take precedence over national laws by any chance?

If FIFA’s members are proved singularly incapable of managing their affairs independently, as has been the case with the CFA, which has failed spectacularly to tackle violence at football matches, must society do nothing about it? When football clubs that make up the ineffective CFA, give cover to hooligan behaviour or publicly excuse it should the rest of society do nothing, because FIFA’s statutes do not permit this?

The state has every right to impose punishments on clubs that protect troublemakers, because there is more at stake than the world governing body’s rules. Every state has the authority to decide how it would tackle hooliganism and impose law and order and if it believes this would be achieved by punishing football clubs then so be it.

Football clubs still benefitted from an amendment to the bill voted by opposition parties. They would not have to pay a part of the bill for the policing of matches, estimated in the region of a million euro per season, as the original bill envisaged. However, the most important part of the bill – the issuing of ID cards for all football fans – was approved despite the objections of AKEL which argued that this was a rights violation. The ID card which would be administered by the Cyprus Sports Federation will come into force at the start of next year.

There were other amendments which prompted the justice minister to claim the approved law was toothless, but this was an over-reaction. Even after the amendments were made the new law still has enough bite to deal with the hooligans, assuming, of course, that it is properly enforced.

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