Authorities condemn football riot

Rioters overturn an unmarked police car outside Basel's stadium Keystone

Sport minister Samuel Schmid and the head of the Swiss Football Association have condemned the post-match riots that overshadowed Saturday's championship decider.

This content was published on May 14, 2006 - 16:28

The violence and clashes with police in Basel have raised the question whether Switzerland can contain hooligans when it co-hosts the 2008 European championships. The opening match in Euro 2008 will be played in Basel.

A spokesman for Schmid quoted the cabinet minister as saying incidents such as these made sport the real loser. He called on sports fans to support tougher legislation to crack down on fan violence.

Various Swiss fan clubs are collecting signatures in the hope of launching a referendum to fight plans to introduce a revised anti-hooliganism law, which was approved by parliament in March.

The measures include more police powers, a hooligan database and travel restrictions for troublemakers.

Schmid's spokesman said the clubs should withdraw their opposition to the legislation, since peace could only be assured by keeping hooligans out.

The president of the Swiss Football Association, Ralph Zloczower, called the latest football violence, "bitter, unacceptable and scandalous".

Speaking to Swiss television on Sunday, he said "our image is in tatters" and such incidents should not be allowed to happen again. He added that it proved that tougher measures were necessary.

However, a spokesman for the referendum committee, Ruben Schönenberger, said the revised law would not have prevented Saturday's violence, adding that opponents had no intention of ending their campaign.

Rioting broke out immediately following Saturday's title decider between FC Basel and FC Zurich, won in the dying moments by Zurich, 2-1.

Rubber bullets

Police used rubber bullets and water cannon to contain the violence after hooligans and disappointed Basel fans stormed the pitch and attacked police.

A police cordon safeguarded the 500 Zurich supporters who travelled to Basel for the match, but could not hinder scenes of chaos which unfolded outside the stadium, where security forces deployed water cannon and tear gas against crowds throwing bottles and stones.

Hundreds of innocent fans trying to make their way home were advised to seek cover back inside the stadium.

At a news conference on Sunday, the cantonal police said more than 100 people had been injured and 15 taken to hospital. A spokesman said between 300 and 500 people were responsible for the violence, and 25 had been arrested.

He said it would have been impossible to prevent these individuals from entering the stadium since their identities had not been previously known to the police.

Damage to traffic signs, vehicles, tram tracks and television broadcast facilities was estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of francs.

The FC Basel management has apologised for the riots.

Zurich champions

Zurich's win gave the club its tenth Swiss championship and the first since 1980/81.

It also ended Basel's home-winning streak at 59 games. It was the first loss for Basel at St Jacob's Park since December 2002.

Basel were looking for a third successive title and had failed to clinch the crown on Wednesday when they lost 4-2 to Bern Young Boys.

Being knocked off the Swiss throne was the latest in a series of disappointments for the club this season.

Basel suffered a bitter defeat to Middlesbrough in the Uefa Cup quarterfinals, and were knocked out of the Swiss Cup by Zurich 4-3.

Zurich now qualify for Uefa's Champions League, while Basel's second place earns them a berth in the Uefa Cup with cup winners FC Sion of the second division and third-placed Young Boys.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

FC Zurich defeated FC Basel 2-1 on the final day of the Swiss Super League season.
The victory gives Zurich their tenth title in club history, and the first since 1980/81.
Basel had been hoping to secure their third championship in a row.

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In brief

Switzerland will co-host the 2008 European football championships with Austria.

Euro 2008 will cost the Swiss SFr178 million, with slightly less than half paid for by the state.

Most of the costs are security related. Over the past few years, Switzerland has seen acts of hooliganism committed during football or ice hockey games.

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