Government takes on hooligans

2 mins read

Fans will be subjected to random alcohol and drug tests on entry to sports venues, while police have the power to call off games if deemed extremely high risk under new measures to curb violence.

The government decision comes after hooligans smashed Nicosia’s Eleftheria indoor stadium and torched the nearby offices of the Cyprus Public transport Company during and after a basketball Final Four Cup game on Sunday.

The move to curb violence at sports stadiums followed heavy criticism of how such games are policed.

Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou announced the measures, including an administrative investigation to identify any responsibilities of the Police.

The investigation, which must be completed within a week, will cover those involved, from planning to execution.

Announcing tougher measures, Procopiou called on the police, the clubs, and the sports federations to assume their responsibilities.

Measures include establishing a permanent police unit to exclusively cover high-risk matches and the obligatory installation of CCTV systems at all sports stadiums.

Police will also be tasked with monitoring the movements of away fans while increasing body checks at the entrance of stadiums.

Procopiou said that her ministry would prepare legislation allowing police to conduct alcohol and drug tests on fans.

She said that legislation would make it obligatory for sports federations to follow police instructions to ban the movement of fans who have caused trouble in previous games.

Police will also have the power to call off high-risk games.

“In the event of further incidents, police will be able to impose closed-door matches. Matches will be banned as a last resort,” Procopiou said.

Legislation on penalties for misbehaving fans will also be tweaked, increasing bans to ten years from two.

Police will also assist stadium authorities with implementing the fan card regulation.

Procopiou said: “It’s time to take action.

“We must find mutually acceptable ways to ensure the safety of citizens.”

Meanwhile, the independent police officers’ union ASDYK called the government’s decision half-measures taken in an attempt to roll down political responsibilities to the force.

In comments to state radio CyBC, the head of the union, Christos Louca, said the decision to create a permanent police unit for high-risk matches will only work with the necessary backing from officials.

“Officers selected will still not be able to perform their duty, as they feel that legislation does not protect them.

“They will still be reported to the Independent Police Allegations and Complaints Investigation Authority, with investigations being launched against them,” said Christou.

On Sunday, hooligans went on the rampage, causing thousands of euros in damage to the Eleftheria-Tassos Papadopoulos stadium in Nicosia while setting fire to the bus company’s nearby offices, destroying them entirely.

Five police patrol vehicles were damaged, while riot gear items, including tear gas, were stolen.

According to police, fans began fighting with officers before the start of the Apollon Limassol – Anorthosis Famagusta game when they tried to enter without tickets.

Fighting continued inside the stadium, with police pushing troublemakers outside, where they attacked the bus station opposite the stadium.