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news 05 Jul 17

Montenegro Gets Tough on Sports Hooligans

New measures to tackle hooliganism in sport are being brought forward by the government - but some believe that it will take more than just a new regulation to curb violence.

Dusica Tomovic
 Photo: fscg.me.

After years of struggling with football violence, Montenegro's government has approved new legislation tightening the penalties for hooliganism.

As clashes at sporting events, mostly football matches, become more frequent and more brutal, the government has approved a new draft law on prevention of violence and misbehaviour at sports events. Parliament is expected to adopt the changes over summer.

The new measures will include nationwide bans for repeat offenders and detaining known hooligans on their way to matches, to stop troublemakers from getting into stadiums.

The new penalties are harsher, too, with fines of 1,000 to 15,000 euros for organisers and clubs if violence occurs, and fines of 600 to 1,500 euros and up to two months in prison for hooligans themselves.

Montenegrin sports authorities were left facing a dilemma about the wave of violence plaguing sporting events ever since an unruly football match between the national team and Russia in March 2015.  

During the the Euro 2016 Group G in Podgorica, Montenegrin fans hit a Russian goalkeeper with a flare, as a result of which he was taken to hospital with serious injuries. Russian player Igor Akinfeev suffered concussion to the brain and a burn to the neck as a result.

The violence has continued during the football matches in the national leagues, but has also involved other sports events.

Urging the government to adopt the harsher law, the sports authorities, including the National Olympic Committee, said Montenegro had “become hostage" to those who wrongly called themselves fans.

However, an expert in the field, a sports editor at local Vijesti TV, Aleksandar Radovic, argues that adopting a new law is not enough.

"To put an end to the violence that almost systematically marks football matches, it is not enough to propose new legislation. The authorities will have to do more," Radovic told BIRN.

Radovic says the new law does not prescribe anything that is not already an obligation for Montenegrin clubs under UEFA rules, in the case of football, or similar international associations for other sports. The question is also whether the security measures will be implemented.

He says the organisers of sports events, clubs and fans association are familiar with the local and international rules deeming violence intolerable, such as torching in stadiums, throwing various objects on the ground, nationalistic and racist shouts, but it happens anyway.

“The fact that the organiser must pay a fine is nothing compared with an injured player or visitor because the security has failed," he said.

According to data from the local media, over the past few years, only 13 people have received court injunctions banning them from stadiums, despite police marking out a much larger total of 468 ringleaders of sporting violence.

Radovic says Montenegro is not like England, with tens of thousands of fans. There are only several fan associations in the country.

“Out of let's say a thousand fans, the same 20 cause constant problems. That has to end," he said.

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