Dutch plan 'football act' to combat hooliganism
It's been a long time in coming, but it finally looks like the Netherlands will soon have a "football act" to tackle hooliganism.What, football hooliganism.... in the Netherlands? Dutch fans at international matches have an exemplary reputation. The good-humoured "orange army" with its painted faces, funny hats and bright orange clothing is a welcome guest in many a foreign city. But back in the Netherlands, mayors and city centres hold their breath when there's a match between domestic rivals.
Recently the mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Job Cohen and Ahmed Aboutaleb, agreed with their local clubs, Ajax and Feyenoord, to ban away fans from attending matches after warnings to unruly fans to curb their behaviour had repeatedly gone unheeded.
So what is everyone is getting so upset about? Inside the stadium the bad behaviour ranges from racist and offensive chanting to the throwing of projectiles, including fireworks, onto the pitch. Outside the stadium it's vandalism and fighting which have given certain clubs a bad reputation. In April last year in Groningen, fans brought hundreds of toilet rolls into the stands to throw onto the pitch. The authorities were aware of the seemingly innocent plan and took no action against it. Unfortunately the toilet paper caught fire, set fire to one of the stands in the ground and as a result several people had to be taken to hospital with breathing problems. The game, between FC Groningen and Ajax, was cancelled.
The worst- ever incident in Dutch football history was the death of Ajax fan Carlo Picorne in 1997, when fans of archrivals Ajax and Feyenoord agreed to meet in a field for a fight far away from the actual match.
In 1999 there were major riots in Rotterdam after Feyenoord fans gathered to celebrate winning the league title - the police even opened fire at one stage and there was millions of euros worth damage to property.
In 2006 Ajax fans stormed a supporters' club house from the ADO Den Haag team, in the Hague, they were armed with molotov cocktails, sticks and knives. An ADO fan was stabbed and the club house set on fire.
The new football act will give local authorities more powers to take preventive action. The raft of measures will include an ban on entering certain areas, on assembly and on contacting certain people, and notorious hooligans will be obliged to report to the police during high-risk matches.
Pressure has been growing to take more action as there has been no sign of the problem of hooliganism going away. In 2007, the Labour Party, the Christian Democrats and the conservative VVD put forward a private members' bill. This came a year after Feyenoord fans wreaked havoc at an UEFA Cup match in the French city of Nancy. Fans rioted inside and outside of the stadium and as a result Feyenoord was fined and kicked out of the competition. At the time Feyenoord placed a full-page advert in a newspaper asking for a football act.
"If we had a football act in the Netherlands, these vandals would never have been able to go to the match in Nancy."
The Dutch football association, the KNVB, has been calling for a package of measures to tackle violence in and around football stadiums for several years. In 2005 Henk Kesler, professional football managing director, said:
"Our legal system is not sufficiently equipped to tackle football vandals swiftly and effectively."
Up to now it has been up to the clubs themselves to try to keep hooliganism at bay. As a result, the clubs introduced expensive membership cards and banned aggressive fans from their matches. Finally there is broad political support for a football act similar to the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act of 1999 which largely cleaned up the game in England.
Photo credits: Vincent Teeuwen