Malmo boss calls for harsh penalties for hooligans.
Malmö president Håkan Jeppsson says it's time for Sweden to get serious about punishing hooligans.
A week after an on-field attack halted the much-anticipated derby match between Malmö and Helsingborg at Swedbank Arena, Malmö FF president Håkan Jeppsson said he believes it is time Sweden crack down severely on hooligans.
“I think we need to follow the example of England and adopt specific laws on fan violence," Jeppsson said. “This harms so much. It's not just the club’s finances that suffer, but the whole sport.”
England has some of the toughest sport-related violence laws in Europe. Under English law, known hooligans receive travel bans, preventing them from attending matches outside the United Kingdom. Domestically, English clubs ban those convicted of hooliganism and maintain a registry of all known “troublemakers.”
In addition, England recently imposed much stiffer penalties on those committing violent acts at sports events. According to the law, violence at sports events carries with it a “presumption of conviction.” Those who are convicted face six months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Violence is on the rise at Swedish football matches, with four major incidents in the past month. The acts culminated with a fan assault on the Helsingborg goalkeeper May 24 just 30 minutes into the derby match with Malmö.
Jeppsson said he believes the problem is beginning to overwhelm Swedish sports clubs.
“These are the kind of days that make you wonder what you are doing,” Jeppsson said. “We know this issue isn’t going away and we need to discuss it. There is no easy solution.”
Still, the Malmö boss said it’s time for Sweden to take a hard-line stance with hooligans.
“It isn’t just a Malmö problem,” he said. “It’s all across Sweden.”
Violence could turn away fans In the wake of the halted match Jeppsson promised to refund ticket prices to Malmö fans. Many families spent up to 2,000 kronor ($350) on tickets for the match. Jeppsson said he feared the violence would tear the sport away from those very fans.
“How many families do not want to go to the game after this?” he said.
The Skåne derby was the second match officials abandoned in a month. On April 25, officials halted the AIK-Syrianska match after an explosive went off near an assistant referee. At the time of that incident, however, AIK denied that the fans involved were part of the club. Video evidence proved the explosive device came from an AIK fan.
Malmö has accepted full responsibility for the events at the derby match and Jeppsson said he plans to take strong measures against the “Bengali,” a group of hard-core, apparently right-wing fans of the club.
Any action Malmö takes, however, likely would not elicit an apology from the fan that allegedly attacked Helsingborg net minder Par Hansson. The man, whom Swedish papers are not naming, remained unapologetic, even defiant, about his role in halting the game.
“I was pissed off about Helsingborg scoring,” the 18-year-old man told Sydsvenskan Dagbladet.
The man denied he attacked Hansson out of spite or hatred, saying “I was just pissed off about Helsingborg scoring. It wasn’t directed at him (Hansson).”
Police said the man’s family received numerous threats throughout the evening of May 24. The suspect, however, seemed to revel in the spotlight. Malmö quickly banned him from attending more matches, but even that didn’t seem to faze him. When asked whether he felt regret, he smugly told the paper, “I’ll tell you later.”
Malmö, in the wake of the incident, promised to beef up security at Swedbank Arena. There was a heavy police presence for the derby, but Jeppsson said it obviously wasn't enough and he planned to ask for help from provincial police and, if necessary, the Swedish military.
The Disciplinary Committee of the Svenska Fotbollförbundet is to meet this week on the incident. Jeppsson said he is expecting the worst.
“I get the feeling the derby match will be played at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning in an empty stadium,” he said.
By Chipp Reid
Malmö fans known as the "Bengali" throw Nazi-style salutes toward the pitch during the Skåne derby May 24 at Swedbank Arena. The man standing in the center of the photo is the man accused of attacking Helsingborg goalkeeper Pär Hansson.