On Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia, fans of the soccer team Red Star were very angry about being penned in at the stadium before a match against rival Partizan. This caused many of the fans to begin ripping out the hard plastic seats and hurling them at the police. Partizan fans rained dozens of flares on the police, which spewed smoke that covered the field and blinded the players. The game had to be suspended due to the unrest.
Soccer-related violence is not new in Europe, but recent figures have shown that the situation may be getting worse. This is partly exacerbated by the economic downturn that most of Europe has been experiencing. Driven by Europe’s economic struggles, there has been an accompanying rise in nationalism and racism.
Michel Platini, Europe’s top soccer official has said,
“In recent months we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were things of the past…a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.”
This has become the norm in Europe. In Spain, a 43-year-old fan died in a bloody brawl in November outside Madrid’s stadium. In Rome, Dutch fans ran through the city and damaged a 400 year old fountain. In Greece, soccer leagues had to be briefly suspended due to a series of violent outbreaks. In addition to these riots, racist incidents have also increased severely.
In Serbia, the government tried to adopt a strategy on sports violence in 2013, which included measures such as stronger bans on violent fans. But many sports experts say that clubs are entwined with crime and politics and cannot be reformed through better policing. It seems that these outbreaks have been strong integrated with the economic downfalls currently happening in Europe. While the government has condemned the violence as unacceptable and said that the country’s sports teams would be privatized, it will be incredibly tough to implement these changes.