Sports fans will be subjected to random alcohol and drugs tests on entry to sports venues while a permanent police team will be established to cover high-risk matches, according to a Wednesday cabinet decision aiming to curb violence in sports stadiums.
Justice Minister Anna Prokopiou announced the decisions of the council of ministers on Wednesday afternoon.
The measures, excluding those that need legislation amendments, will be in force immediately, she said.
They also include increased body checks and increased penalties that ban fans for up to ten years from sports stadiums as well as controls on the movement of fans and the installation of CCTV in all stadiums.
Furthermore, police will also check the use of fan cards.
Cabinet adopted additional measures following incidents of violence at the Anorthosis-Apollon basketball semi-final on Sunday which led to the injury of three officers.
The recent sports violence prompted the Cyprus football federation (Kop) to announce that Apoel-Ael futsal cup final at Kition Sports Centre will be held without fans on Thursday. The move came after calls by president Nikos Christodoulides for fans to “behave” otherwise all fans would be banned.
Authorities prepared and studied a factual report on the events, while the justice minister said an administrative investigation to identify errors and omissions on the part of the police is also expected.
The investigation, which must be completed within a week, will cover every member of the force involved, from planning to execution.
In the event of further incidents, the minister said, police will be able to impose closed-door matches.
If the fans of a specific team cause a riot during a match and police proposes the coming match to be carried out without the presence of fans, the Cyprus Sports Organisation (Koa) must listen to this advice, the minister explained.
Officials will assess whether to amend the relevant legislation to make police’s recommendation mandatory.
Matches will be banned as a last resort, Prokopiou said.
Meanwhile, competent authorities will re-evaluate the financial or other assistance provided by the state to sports clubs.
The minister is expected to meet Koa on Friday for discussions regarding changes in the law for the conduct of matches.
“This is not the first discussion that will take place on Friday, recommendations have been made before, we need to see how recommendations can be binding on each federation,” she said.
“They too must take their responsibility. [The] input from the clubs is necessary, we will definitely discuss with the stadiums,” the minister added.
Although government is open to dialogue “at some point we have to end the words and get down to actions,” Prokopiou declared.
According to police, fans began fighting with officers before the start of the match at Tassos Papadopoulos Eleftheria Stadium when they tried to enter without a ticket. Police said rocks were thrown at them which led officers to use tear gas in an attempt to restore order.
But the rioting continued inside during the match, where the fans of both clubs began to clash with officers. After the match rioting broke out outside the stadium.
Then fans started a fire, burning down the offices of the bus company opposite the stadium and causing thousands of euros of damage.
Police are conscientiously not getting involved in these kind of incidents, due to the fact that there are oversight committees “waiting to pounce on officers for even the slightest mistake”, head of police union Asdyk Loucas Andreou told CyBC radio on Tuesday.
He added that the issue is not simply a problem of the police, but rather a societal problem.