The Europa League is an amazing tournament. It gives us the chance to practice our European geography as the continents most passionately supported clubs square off for relative glory. In the “post hooligan” era of stadium repression, fan cards, and increased security, last night’s chaos has called much of this “progress” into question.
In Rotterdam, following the last week’s clashes between police and Feyenoord fans in Rome, 42 people were detained before a match that was subsequently disrupted do to crowd trouble. In Kiev, the Dynamo supporters fought with the Guingamp faithful, in an attempt to take one of their banners. There were reports of violent clashes between Napoli and Trabzonspor fans in and around the San Paolo. Dinamo Moscow supporters attacked several dozen Anderlecht fans in their hotel following the Belgian side’s 3-1 loss.
Nearly 30 years on from the Heysel stadium disaster and the continent wide measures that followed, football matches are still the setting for this kind of brutality. Turnstiles, CCTV, increased police presence, stadium bans, the banning of pyro, and alchohol restrictions are all forms of crowd control that were applied during last night’s proceedings. So why doesn’t it seem to be working?
The recent rise stadium violence has come in a time of unprecedented regulation. Football associations and state institutions have come up with a plethora of preventative measures, but very few have had an open dialogue with those who care most about their clubs, the fans. So long as the passion of supporters is not taken into account, we will continue to see this sort of deviance on the terraces.
If the football club is a patronage of the town that it plays for, its fans must be viewed as stake holders and not customers. This is not to make excuses for violence, but rather, to suggest that if you empower a person or community they are beholden to maintaining it. As a Lazio supporter once told me, if you make pasta Ammatriciana illegal, then the second I find someone making it, I will eat it until I’m sick.
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