The world football focus may be on Brazil and the culmination of the world cup, but Czech football has some persistent problems to tackle at home, in particular hooliganism. The interior ministry has just set out its demands for improvements at top grounds across the country and has warned clubs that they can take action or risk stadiums being closed.
Marauding masked football fans tore down barriers, tore up chairs and threw them at stewards and rival fans at a top league match between Baník Ostrava and Sparta Prague at the end of March.
Police, who are no longer present at matches as a matter of course, had to be called in with the game halted for 40 minutes while order was restored. One of the results of that eruption of violence was a broad working group set up by the interior ministry and calling on legal experts, police, football clubs and the national football association to look at ways of clamping down on hooliganism at stadiums.
One key aspect has been a survey of security at the grounds of top Czech clubs and the findings in that report were presented at a press conference attended by the Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec, Police President Tomáš Tuhý and chairman of the Football Association of the Czech Republic, Miroslav Pelta, on Tuesday.
For the moment the specific problems and remedies required at the country’s main first division grounds has not been made public but will start to be discussed by the football association and clubs concerned. But it is clear that the report is part of what amounts to a yellow card with a red one following if steps are not taken in time this time round after previous promises were broken. Interior Milan Chovanec explained: “These are the directions that we have decided to take: it has been agreed that the association will set out the rules of the game, the licensing conditions for clubs and the first year, that means in a year’s time, if these conditions are not fulfilled then clubs will not be able to play first division games in their stadiums”
So clubs have basically got to get their stadiums ready by the summer of 2015 or face their closure.
The interior ministry has already signaled that it wants clubs to be able to draw up their own lists of problem fans and a means for those names to be shared via a central database. Improved segregation of fans, better training and use of stewards used inside grounds to keep order should also be covered. In ground cameras to home in on violence and technology to help identify the hooligans are also being talked about.
An estimated bill for clubs to come up with improvements already comes to 150 million crowns. The football association says it will try to help out club’s facing financial problems and has hinted that it will seek a hike in the income raised from tv screening of games.
For the moment the Ministry of Interior is holding off on specific changes to the law needed for the clampdown on hooliganism but says it wants to be ready to start proposing measures from September. Inspiration could come from neighbouring Slovakia where close circuit security surveillance is required at all top division and second division football and ice hockey matches.
With or without cameras, the Czech league starting in just over two weeks’ time will be closely followed to see how clubs are coping with the hooligan challenge.