Police chief Stelios Papatheodorou on Monday did not rule out the possibility of banning fans from football games following fights that broke out before, during and after a match between Apollon and Apoel at the Tsirion stadium in Limassol on Sunday night.
Speaking to reporters at the swearing in ceremony for the new prison parole board, he said that the police and football association will revisit the possibility of banning fans for specific teams or games.
He said that the issue has been occupying the force since late September, when it was determined that many were not complying with the rules, which called for a meeting with security companies and the football association.
Another meeting was held between police and football stakeholders, who according to him “promised to try improving things within their teams and fan clubs to prevent any other incidents, injuries or damages to properties”.
He said the police force will not hesitate using everything at its disposal, including drones and helicopters.
Papatheodorou refuted claims the police are unable to handle the issue, stressing that “it’s not about handling the issue but about using the provisions of the law, and if we need to make these suggestions to save lives, then we will”.
Earlier in the day he said that developments on the matter are expected by Tuesday at the latest.
Following Sunday’s incidents, three fans were arrested and one injured at the match when violence reached such a level that the police water canon was put into action.
Trouble first broke out when Apollon fans attacked Limassol traffic police outside the stadium, resulting in one officer needing first aid for cuts and abrasions. One fan stole the officer’s cap while others spray-painted police patrol cars.
Thereafter, a large group of Apoel fans attempted to force their way into the stadium bypassing the entry guards. Police came to the aid of the guards and the fans were slowed and checked as required by law.
Soon after the match began, an estimated 30 fans from both teams got into a fight inside the football pitch, throwing stones, flares and advertising plaques. Anti-riot police, who had been stationed outside the stadium, entered and broke up the brawls, arresting three people, aged 17, 23 and 25.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Stephie Dracou congratulated the police for “intervening immediately, preventing further incidents and allowing the game to finish without further issues”.
Responding to claims that fan cards are not effective in reducing such incidents, she said that “what matters is that the mechanisms are at work; when inspectors couldn’t cope police stepped in to help.
“It’s time for us to also highlight the good in police work, and give credit where it’s due,” she said, defending the police against criticism over the way the post-match fights were handled.
The force’s leadership always has plans for dealing with such incidents, she said, “and I believe that within the framework of its powers it intervenes and acts correctly”.
She it is not solely the responsibility of the police but of those who answer for the organised fans, and for stadium control and security.