Czech FA, police agree deal on stadium security

Czech officials have tried - and tried again - to stamp out football hooliganism, but at last, say observers, a step in the right direction. On Monday, Czech police and the Czech Football Association (ČMFS) signed an agreement shifting responsibility for security to individual clubs. While the police will continue to monitor key games from outside stadiums, they will only move in if a situation gets out of hand.

Police Commissioner Oldřich Martinů  (left) and Pavel Mokrý of ČMFS signing the agreement,  photo: CTK
Smashed items, broken chairs, material set alight: all too common when football hooligans clash with police. In the past, critics have argued, too little has been done. But now, major changes: under a new agreement signed on Monday between the FA and Czech police, it will primarily be up to clubs themselves to monitor security when the league resumes action on Sunday. That, according to many - including the Interior Minister Ivan Langer, himself a football fan - will lessen the threat of hooliganism at football matches. New legislation prevents the police from splitting security duties with private organisers, meaning that individual clubs had little choice but to expect changes. A little earlier I spoke to journalist Stanislav Hrabě, who writes for the Czech daily Sport.

“Hooliganism is of course nothing new, it’s a problem we’ve known about for a long time. Under new legislation Czech police will no longer intervene in areas where organisers are responsible. Under the law, the police only have to step in when the law is being broken: when people, or property, are threatened. That means that it was necessary to coordinate new rules: clubs will now have to hire private security and invest in new camera systems.”

Private security should help maintain basic order within stadiums, while closed-circuit camera systems, to be installed at the latest by July 1 under the agreement, will make it possible for officials (one security expert and one police officer) to monitor the situation. One area where the police will continue to operate inside stadium grounds will be through the use of so-called “spotters” – plains clothes officers – who can be used to gauge the situation.

“If everything works as described, it should have a positive effect. Spotters - hooliganism specialists - can help, while camera systems can help in creating a database of known transgressors. They could then be banned from visiting stadiums. Those are steps that should be taken by any top flight league and should improve the situation.”

The proposed changes will of course require large investments: according to Stanislav Hrabě private security alone can cost a club up to 120,000 crowns per match, while camera systems too will come with a costly price tag of around seven million crowns each. At the same time, the Czech FA has promised it will help clubs with financing, planning to set aside some 70 to 80 million crowns in loans - which would leave around five million crowns per club.