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Technology upgrades will put an end to football violence, says Koa head

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Fake fan cards are not the reason football violence has broken out over the last couple of weeks, head of the Cyprus Sports Organisation (Koa) Mary Papamiltiadi said on Tuesday as some had blamed people carrying these for the trouble.

Some, she told CyBC radio, argue that the online registration system to get the cards, which must be carried by all those attending a match, lends itself to obtaining falsified cards, but she denied this was possible.

When cards are issued, she said, the identity of the applicant is linked to and cross-checked against a photo on a government issued ID card. What happens after the card is issued is not within the scope of Koa’s activities, Papamiltiadi said.

The Koa head insisted that if procedures were followed, such as ID cross-checks and assigned seating, hooliganism could be prevented. This may require fans to arrive to a match up to three hours in advance, she said, but such procedures are commonplace abroad.

Entrance security checks must be intensified, she insisted, and noted that, as the law stands, these are the responsibility of stadium security staff, not the police.

Papamiltiadi also expressed optimism that anticipated upgrades to the Koa database, online registration and records, and to CCTV installations at various sports venues will alleviate the situation and enable police to investigate incidents and identify culprits more efficiently.

Former Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou also expressed the conviction that the solution to the problem was a technological one.

“Automatic face recognition systems can cross-check CCTV footage with a Koa database, linked to police records, and identify perpetrators’ names and addresses within four seconds, without any human involvement needed,” he said.

Their comments came after violent incidents at two football stadiums and a futsal court over the past two weekends.

Incidents outside Nicosia’s GSP stadium on Sunday during which fires were set – including to a passing car – saw one man hospitalised for a head injury, and came in the wake of episodes at Larnaca’s AEK Arena and at a futsal court last week.

On Monday police spokesperson Christos Andreou said that the violence was a matter of concern.

“The stadium is easier to [investigate] than GSP where [the incidents] were out on the street and in the dark,” he said, assuring the public that, nonetheless, police would locate those responsible.

Stadium security has come under scrutiny, with accusations being levelled against the fan card system that it is failing to weed out troublemakers.

Critics of the system have asserted that known hooligans are able to enter stadiums with impunity without presenting any card, by using other people’s cards, and even being granted fake cards through their club.

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