Tackling fan violence

Greece’s top prosecutor asked the police yesterday to step up efforts to arrest violent sports fans after another weekend of clashes at soccer and basketball games led to more than 30 people being injured. Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas’s meeting with police chiefs came after clashes between supporters of Larissa and PAOK soccer teams on Sunday afternoon as well as a rampage by Olympiakos basketball supporters a few hours later. Sanidas told high-ranking officers the police need to crack down on the hardcore fans fueling the violence. «The arrests that take place have to focus on people at the center of the incidents and must be accompanied by hard evidence so their involvement can be proved,» said Sanidas. Sunday’s violence came six days after clashes between AEK and Panathinaikos fans at the Olympic Stadium, which resulted in 24 people getting hurt. Last Monday’s incidents prompted the police to demand that the Super League, soccer’s governing body, ban fans from traveling to away games. Sanidas backed the proposal. Officers told Sanidas they will push through plans to install CCTV cameras at sports grounds and for ticketing to be conducted electronically so the names of fans can be recorded. The plans were unveiled in May, three months before the soccer season began, but have yet to be implemented. Petros Kokkalis, the Super League president and vice president of Olympiakos, criticized the police. «I cannot understand the police’s role in standing by and watching the incidents,» said Kokkalis. «The police cost [clubs] about 5 or 6 million euros and I still do not know what they do.» Policing of sports fans over the last year cost Greek taxpayers some 9 million euros according to police figures. More than 217,000 officers were deployed at sports grounds. During that time, 37 police officers and 72 fans were injured. Only 30 out of 218 people arrested in connection with violence served jail sentences. Five basketball fans were charged yesterday with attacking three journalists at the Peace and Friendship Stadium after the Olympiakos versus Panathinaikos game. Sotiris Vetakis, one of the journalists, was allegedly hit over the head with an iron bar and had to be taken to the hospital.