Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides reiterated the government’s position on Wednesday to keep the controversial fan ID card despite the reaction of football fan organisations who boycotted last year’s football championship.
Parties meanwhile, including ruling Disy, had agreed to suspend the card, arguing that the island’s football stadiums did not have the infrastructure and equipment in place to support the measure.
However, they were forced to change their minds after the government came out strongly in favour of keeping the card.
Savvides agreed that certain grounds did not meet the standards that had to be met with the introduction of the card. Makario stadium in Nicosia for instance does not have the high definition security cameras to record the crowd and identify troublemakers.
“The state, the government, (and) parties must convey a clear message that the card will stay so that we can all digest it,” he said. “Slowly, slowly clubs should be able to admonish and pressure their supporters and gradually the number who currently have a card will rise.”
Around 72,000 have been issued a fan card.
Aimed at tackling hooliganism, the fan card was introduced in August 2018 following a long discussion in parliament and football clubs mainly on concerns of violation of personal data, as its holders have to provide some details such as photo, identity number, and address to have it issued.
It was opposed by the fan clubs of all major football teams, citing concerns that police would use the data to keep tabs on them.
Admission to any sports venue as of last August is granted only to those possessing the card. Since its introduction, there has been hardly any trouble.
The football association (CFA), suggested the fan card has caused a 30 per cent reduction in ticket sales although observers suggest that live television broadcasting, match-fixing and poor performances by certain teams, had probably caused more damage to the game.
The government has prepared a bill amending certain provisions, which do not change the basic philosophy of the measure.
The amendments scrap the need for a card by fans aged 65 and above, and also remove swearing from the list of offences. Certain other cases have been downgraded as regards the penalties.
The minister said a measure that worked should not be killed with the pretext of putting pressure on authorities to implement the rest of the conditions.
“With all due respect, I don’t think this is something that relates to or poses risks to spectator safety. It is something that adds to the comfort of those who watch football,” he said.
The issue will be discussed by the House legal affairs committee next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Downplaying his party’s about turn, committee chairman, Disy MP Giorgos Georgiou suggested most people had misinterpreted the committee’s decision last week.
“The committee’s decision was an initial proposal, it was not an order we had issued that would come into force immediately,” he said. “It was an initial proposal on a unanimous understanding based on what we heard.”
He said his party has decided to adopt the government bill.
MPs will also discuss stadium safety, based on a police report that they were found lacking. Despite that, the authority responsible had issued permits to the stadiums the next day, June 29.
“Whether everything the police had asked for was put in place in one day is something they will have to tell us next week,” he said.