It is very convenient for everyone to blame bad policing for the violence and vandalism by football hooligans, because then they can go on pretending that they have no responsibility when the thugs go on the rampage, as happened in Limassol on Sunday evening.
After the vandalism, which included the firing of flares and the hurling of chunks of concrete and plastic seats, led to the calling off of the match, the hooliganism continued outside the Tsirion stadium where the thugs damaged shops and cars, also including Molotov cocktails in their missile weaponry.
The consensus was that poor policing was to blame. The clubs which are responsible for security and safety inside the stadium and the Football Federation, Kop, which has to ensure the clubs enforce the law in stadiums were blameless. For example, the provision of the law barring fans wearing hoodies in stadiums was completely ignored by stewards, allowing hundreds of hoodie-wearing fans (that cannot be identified by CCTV) into the Tsirion. Some carried hammers with which they broke off pieces of concrete from the terraces and hurled it at the ‘enemy’, not to mention the flares.
If the stadium stewards had done their job properly, checking fan IDs, body searching fans, banning entry of those wearing hoodies, and ensuring each fan sat in the right seat (tickets have seat numbers) there would have been more control of the situation. Stewards are lax, not as a matter of policy, but because these are the orders of the clubs which do not want to alienate hardcore fans by asking them to enforce the law. Lack of security and disregard of the law is the norm at stadiums, stewards rarely even checking the fan ID cards which are mandatory for entry.
What were the police supposed to do, given this laxness? There were reportedly 180 officers on duty at Tsirion on Sunday, but it was not their job to check what fans entering the stadium were carrying. Nor could they engage in pitched battles with hooligans on the terraces. If police critics were suggesting there should have been more policemen at the stadium, they should also have proposed who would pick up the bill for having 500 officers on duty at a football match, to control hooligans hell-bent on causing mayhem because this was the last game at Tsirion stadium.
The taxpayer, most certainly, should not be expected to foot the bill for extra policing needed for high-risk matches. As we have written several times in the past, if more than 20 officers are needed to police a match the bill should be served to the home club. It is high time the football clubs, which receive more than enough money from the state in funding, paid the cost for their refusal to do anything to help the fight against hooligans.
Irresponsible club bosses and an indifferent Kop are to blame for the failure to tackle hooliganism, not poor policing of matches.