OPINION

Stop the scourge of sports hooligans

The problem of violence in Greek stadiums would be just one more of the ridiculous things about this country if it were not for the economic and social problems caused by sports-related violence. The ridiculous things in the world of sports fan mayhem are simple. Consider, first of all, that soccer clubs tend to subsidize their armies of fans through tickets and other benefits. Then consider that the police are unable to arrest those troublemakers, who wreak havoc at soccer games as well as basketball, water polo and even handball matches. And then, finally, what about our judicial system, which releases these hooligans pending trial so they are free to cause more trouble? Even if this all sounds silly – and it really does – it causes tangible problems. Consider the economic and social ramifications of sports violence. For instance, a significant proportion of the Greek police force is mobilized to provide security at the country’s stadiums on Sundays, which costs taxpayers money but keeps officers from patrolling the streets and thus protecting citizens. Sports stadiums are now generally avoided by families. Meanwhile, entire neighborhoods and districts are often transformed into battlefields, vandalized by overzealous fans. In view of this, it is a lame cliche to stress the need for immediate measures to curb the problem instead of going along with the typical pass-the-buck mentality that reigns at the Justice and Public Order ministries and among soccer club owners. The solution to the problem of sports violence is very simple. The police officers who patrol stadiums should conduct thorough checks on all arriving fans and arrest troublemakers on the spot. The courts should enforce the law as it stands and stop showing leniency to thugs. Finally, the umbilical cord connecting clubs with supporters should be cut, either by the clubs themselves or through state intervention. But what we need more than anything is for the government, and the political world in general, to face their responsibilities. It is common knowledge that politicians regard social groups, particularly big ones, as large reservoirs of potential votes; in view of this they will always hesitate to launch initiatives which may bring them into conflict with such groups (as a possible crackdown on soccer hooliganism would do in this case). But the longer they fail to act, the longer this problem will be protracted and aggravated. We should not forget that there are also politicians in Britain but this has not stopped the country from implementing an effective crackdown on soccer hooliganism, which had once thrived. The same applies to Italy, where a historic team like Juventus has been relegated to the second division because of its implication in the recent match-fixing scandal.