ATHENS – The murder of a 19-year-old student in a soccer fan rivalry has led the New Democracy government to get tougher on hooligans, including suspending operation of team fan clubs until July 31.
A series of provisions creating a stricter legal framework for dealing with sports fan violence were presented on Monday by Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras, Civil Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos, Deputy Minister of Sports Lefteris Avgenakis, and government spokesperson Yiannis Economou. According to Tsiaras, the government’s legislative initiatives aim to close all the “windows” within the existing legal framework.
It was announced that the sentence for crimes of fan violence is being increased from six months to five years. In cases involving dangerous perpetrators, a sentence between two and five years will be imposed. In addition, a special criminal offence is being introduced for those who cover their facial features during a sports match, with a prison sentence of at least six months. It will be prohibited to suspend a sentence for crimes of fan violence, which will be tried as a matter of priority. In the case of a postponement of the trial, the imposition of restrictive conditions will become mandatory.
Civil Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said the new measures would include tougher jail terms and sentencing guidelines for organised sport related violence, adding that supporters clubs would be allowed to reopen only after July 31 following an extensive review of the operation rules and the introduction of a new operating framework.
“Hooliganism is a global scourge that is responsible for the death of dozens of people. We must join forces, the government, political parties, soccer teams, and players. No one has the right to be absent from this effort to confront the violence,” Theodorikakos said.
Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis,announced the suspension of the operation of all sports team fan clubs and their branches until July 31, 2022.
The ban is part of plans to try to slow soccer violence that is common in stadiums where fans are allowed to bring in flares and weapons and often lash with riot police, the trouble now spilling over into the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki.
It comes after police raided 575 of the fan clubs across the country and confiscated an arsenal of deadly weapons, the places being used to store them and some reportedly to plan attacks on their rivals.
Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told reporters that 67 of the clubs have been banned permanently and that 17 arrests were made, although it wasn’t detailed for what.
The new measures will require parliamentary approval but are likely to receive broad political support beyond the government’s comfortable majority.