NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 14:28
Hugo van der Parre
Hugo van der Parre
There are still various options to increase safety in Dutch football stadiums. Such as an alcohol ban in the stands, tightened camera surveillance, better training for stewards and the introduction of fixed seats by name.
This is what consultancy firm Berenschot writes in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and Security. The recommendations are especially topical after the riots at Ajax-Feyenoord last Sunday. After fireworks were thrown onto the field twice, the match was stopped and hundreds of Ajax supporters violently stormed the main entrance to the Johan Cruijff Arena.
Berenschot compared the approach to football hooliganism in the Netherlands with that in England and Germany. The agency concludes that there are many options in the Netherlands to combat football hooliganism, but that these measures are not applied, possibly because they are not sufficiently known or because the authorities have cold feet.
The researchers believe that the greatest gain can be achieved by making it clear to supporters through campaigns that they cannot cross the line anonymously due to the cameras present and that offenders will be prosecuted and punished. In combination with personalized tickets, fixed seats and well-trained stewards, the chance of being caught can be further increased. The risk of being caught determines behavior, the report states.
Learning from England and Germany
The report, entitled Football Policy in the Netherlands, England and Germany, examines how football hooliganism is tackled in England and Germany and what the Netherlands can learn from it. One of the conclusions is that England is wrongly seen as a country where all problems disappeared after the introduction of strict football laws. That is not the case, says Berenschot. The legislation and regulations are not stricter and a reporting obligation is hardly imposed due to the pressure on the police forces there.
Stricter camera surveillance can have a great effect, the researchers think. Almost all professional football clubs have reasonable to good cameras with coverage of all supporter sections in most stadiums. The KNVB also has a task force that can help clubs identify offenders. In some cases, the files are also handed over to the police or justice department.
Assigning permanent seats by name can also help combat undesirable supporter behavior, says Berenschot. The security staff in the stadium then know exactly who is sitting where and who is misbehaving. However, there are currently many areas where the supporter can choose where to sit. It is very difficult to keep an overview on the standing stands.
The researchers see less of an identification requirement at the entrance to the stadium. Checking this is very time-consuming. Moreover, 80 percent of spectators who commit violations are ‘first offenders’. Then identification obligation does not help.
An alcohol ban could make sense, Berenschot concludes. In England, drinks are not allowed in the stands, but they are allowed on the stadium circuits and outside pubs. During high-risk matches, the authorities can announce a total alcohol ban in local pubs and during bus rides to (away) matches.
Strict action is taken against drunkenness in and around the stadium and consuming drinks ‘behind the line’ is a criminal offence. It is therefore impossible to take cups to the stands and throw them on the field. Since then, other objects, such as lighters, have been thrown onto the field in England hundreds of times.
Damage to the atmosphere
The Supporters Collective Netherlands, a partnership of supporters’ associations, supports measures aimed at tracking down individual perpetrators, such as better camera surveillance and well-trained stewards.
But the supporters’ club is opposed to solutions that make entire groups pay for the behavior of individuals. They also do not like measures that affect the atmosphere around matches, such as the abolition of standing areas or an alcohol ban. “The standing areas are important for the atmosphere and most supporters drink at most a few beers. That doesn’t hurt at all.”
Digital reporting obligation
The Berenschot researchers do not see much in a reporting obligation for people with a stadium ban, because this is not always proportionate to the offense. “A stadium ban is not a reason to impose a reporting obligation. The underlying criminal conduct must justify it.”
There is also little support among the police to enforce the reporting obligation. A digital reporting obligation whereby a supporter with a stadium ban must identify himself via an app could be a solution. A trial with such an app should start this fall, Justice Minister Yesilgöz has announced.