Interior Ministry plans new system to crack down on football hooligans

26-05-2008

Vandalism and football hooliganism that has become an increasing problem for both the authorities and people living in the vicinity of football stadiums. The interior ministry has now announced strict new measures to bring the problem under control. Football hooliganism continues to be a major drain on police resources as well as a safety threat.

The 2007/2008 season was not the worst in Czech club football history, but there were at least two inglorious incidents that won’t soon be forgotten, among them a clash between hardcore fans and police during a recent Sparta-Slavia derby. Fans and police in riot gear fought, fires were set, and seats were ripped out of their moorings all leading to millions of crowns in damages. Now, the interior ministry has said “enough is enough” and is planning, come next season, things will be different.

A long-awaited proposal sent to clubs this week outlines plans for tracking the activities of known and repeat offenders. Ultimately, like in Great Britain, the worst of rowdies could see club bans. Basically, repeat offenders will be cut out of the picture and prevented from causing future incidents. The cornerstone of the plan is for clubs and stadiums to rely on closed-circuit TV cameras to monitor hooligans’ activities, forming a database. That information would then be shared between clubs, making it easier to pinpoint problems, keep track of incidents, and above all keep track of repeat and dangerous offenders. That would make it easier to take legal action and to implement bans. It needs to be stressed that the Office for the Protection of Personal Data was consulted closely on the project – the office had a number of concerns regarding the tracking of information which needed to be agreed on, among them, that cameras will not analyse or target individuals on the basis of biometric information.

Ministry officials have said that bans are the best form of prevention and suggested that should lead to a drop in incidents. There are other smaller measures which the ministry hopes to see implemented to make stadiums safer. Among them are new fences, a stricter separation of opposing fans, and the insurance of fully separate emergency exits. In the future they may also rely, in special cases, the assembly of a court of law right on the premises, to charge and try serious offenders on the spot. Along with an existing database, that could be a significant deterrent. Anyone considering ripping out a seat and throwing it into the stands, or attacking other fans, or police, might now think twice.

26-05-2008