BiH cracks down on fan violence and nationalism

01/04/2014

Increased security measures and bans are part of the BiH football federation's plan to curtail fan violence and nationalist rhetoric.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 01/04/14

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BiH football fans throw flares onto the field after Egypt scored a second goal during a friendly football match in Innsbruck, Austria, on March 5th. [AFP]

The Football Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) introduced sharper security measures, as well as an initiative for better co-operation between football clubs and police departments, to prevent fan violence and nationalistic behaviour in the stadiums.

On March 1st, the federation banned visiting fans from attending matches through September.

The supporters of the Sarajevo football club, the biggest in BiH, expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision. In lieu of away games, fans of the club have started to attend their team's training sessions.

"We are not hooligans, we are fans," the fans of the club said on its official website.

At a series of meetings between security officers and football club leaders during the past few months, the federation presented its plan for increased security measures at stadiums under the jurisdiction of the football league of BiH.

Under the plan, all clubs will have to carry out a detailed assessment and engage a sufficient number of security guards at home matches. In addition, they will have to present the details of their security plan to police in time to allocate a sufficient number of police in the stadium.

Clubs must also identify and list known hooligans and troublemakers in their fan groups and turn their names over to local police departments.

"That way, the police will be able to forbid hooligans from entering the stadiums," Zarko Laketa, chairman of the football federation's committee for stadiums and security, told SETimes. "We will pay special attention to those who express nationalism in BiH stadiums. Nationalist behaviour is forbidden and will not be tolerated. Everything we've done in the past days and months is to improve security at stadiums and to achieve a higher level of respect for the law in this country."

Currently there is no federal law in BiH on violence at sporting events, so the penalties vary depending on the level of government, from six months to several years in prison.

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Under the new measures, visiting fans will no longer be allowed to attend matches at BiH stadiums. [AFP]

In Croatia, the fines for clubs and hooligans can be up to 10,000 euros, while a prison sentence can run from six months to eight years. In Serbia the fines are higher, up to 20,000 euros, and 10 years in jail.

Violence at football matches is not uncommon in the region. In 2009, Partizan football club fans from Belgrade beat French fan Bris Taton, who died several days later from his injuries. A Belgrade court sentenced 14 people to total of 91 years in prison.

Police officials said legislation in BiH is still soft when it comes to hooliganism and violence at sporting events.

"Hooligans have to be tried by short proceedings, without extending the cases in the courts for years. The police are working in co-operation with the clubs when it comes to games that are rated as risky. Co-operation with prosecutors and clubs is good, but it needs to be constantly improved," Gojko Vasic, director of the Republika Srpska police department, told SETimes.

Football club Velez from Mostar is a multi-ethnic club that comprises players of all nationalities in BiH. Sedin Tanovic, club director, agrees that nationalistic rhetoric needs to be kept off the field.

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"Unfortunately, this is still a phenomenon in BiH," Tanovic, told SETimes. "Our stadiums are not like those in England, which are fully covered by cameras, countless policemen and good laws. Clubs in BiH simply do not have such infrastructure. When it comes to nationalism, it is mass psychology: one begins to shout slogans, others immediately follow. In every aspect, BiH is a complicated country, therefore it is in sport also. So I think that it will take time to root out such phenomena."

Fans are also behind the initiative.

"Nobody wants to have anything to do with those people, they only represent trouble," Jasko Balijagic, a 28-year-old fan, told SETimes. "What they don't understand is that with that kind of behaviour they are only damaging their own football club. That is why we are trying to mark those who are making problems and letting club management know that we don't have anything to do with them."

What do you think should be done to stop fan violence at sports events? List your ideas below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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