Cabinet on Wednesday ratified the amendment to legislation regarding the prevention and suppression of violence in sports venues.

This amendment introduces graduated penalties and increases the duration of exclusion from sports events up to the cancellation of a match according to the Justice Minister Anna Koukkides-Procopiou.

Speaking at the presidential palace after the council of ministers meeting, Procopiou said the legal review has been completed, and a modification will be submitted to the parliament with a specific bill, following a previous decision of the council of ministers.

The minister stated that they will change the legislation to install closed-circuit surveillance systems in every sports venue used for matches or events, especially those with international dimensions or even local league matches.

“Because we know that compliance with new data takes time, we ask for a grace period of one year so that we can give time for stadiums and clubs to adjust to the new legislation,” she said.

The minister reiterated that the main concern is to strengthen the presence of the police in sports venues “because we see that there is a need for it”.

This, she noted, will be achieved by intensifying the physical checks of fans, locating and confiscating illegal and dangerous items, which, as she said, has already begun. “But at the same time, a very important tool is providing the police with the ability to conduct alcohol and drug tests on individuals who want to enter sports venues.”

According to the minister, the government proposal also involves increasing the duration of the exclusion order from sports events or venues. She said, “We will propose to gradually increase the first, second, and third convictions,” explaining that the first conviction will no longer provide for six months to one year but one year up to two years. This will escalate by proposing exclusion for up to 10 years in very serious cases and multiple convictions, she added.

She further mentioned that the control of the fan card in sports venues will be strengthened, again with the involvement of the police.

There will also be a stricter approach regarding the conduct of matches when the chief of police informs the relevant federation of any concerns based on reasonable suspicions or information that there may be fan behaviour that could cause public order disturbances.