Zurich voters fed up with violence

Fans of Bern's Young Boys team light fireworks before the start of a match against FC Zurich Reuters

Switzerland has taken a step closer to the introduction of nationwide regulations allowing the authorities to clamp down on football hooliganism. Voters in Zurich have accepted new measures to counter violence at sporting events.

This content was published on June 9, 2013 - 15:28 and agencies

Around 85 per cent cast their ballot in favour of the anti-hooligan measures. It means that football and ice hockey teams in the top league need authorisation for their matches. Attached to the authorisation are requirements for tougher policing, restrictions on alcohol sales, and rules governing how fan groups are transported to matches.

One of the most controversial aspects is an extension of a stadium ban for repeat offenders from a maximum of one to three years.

While other European nations like Britain and Germany have introduced tighter security, Switzerland has been struggling to implement effective action across the country.

Last year, police directors of all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons agreed on the tougher rules now voted on in Zurich. But Zurich joins only a handful of cantons that have ratified the so-called Hooligan Concordat. Zurich was the first to hold a referendum on the issue, with votes expected in cantons Zug and Bern too.

Without nationwide implementation, preventing violence has been a stiff challenge, as the recent Swiss football cup final showed. Eight fans and two policemen were injured when rival supporters of FC Basel and Grasshoppers Zurich converged in Bern’s town centre ahead of the match in the capital’s stadium on May 20.

Bern’s cantonal and city police directors both argued that had the new anti-hooligan measures been in force, the violence could have been contained better.

Costs of policing

Up to 30,000 police officers are placed on anti-hooligan duty at Switzerland’s top football and ice hockey games each year.

Policing a high-risk match, such as a showdown between FC Basel and one of the top Zurich clubs, can carry a price tag of CHF250,000 ($270,000).

Fan-control measures reportedly cost as much at CHF27 million annually, not including CHF3 million for post-match damage to passenger trains.

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Hans-Jürg Käser, head of canton Bern’s police department, said the clubs would have been required to obtain authorisation for the match, and meet the attached conditions.

One of these, he said, would have required the groups of supporters to be transported from Zurich and Basel directly to the Bern stadium, thereby avoiding the town centre.

Opponents of the beefed up anti-Hooligan measures argue that the new regulations are too bureaucratic, expensive, an attack on civil liberties and disproportionate.

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