Sport Minister Samuel Schmid says the country's football authorities need to press on with tougher safety and security measures ahead of the Euro 2008 championships.This content was published on February 15, 2007 - 16:28
He identified the creation of a hooligan database and improvements to stadia as immediate priorities for ensuring that the tournament – hosted jointly by Switzerland and Austria – runs smoothly.
"I think as far as security is concerned the penny has dropped, although in some cases there is still some work to be done," he told a news conference in Bern on Thursday.
Schmid said the showpiece event was the perfect chance for Switzerland to amend its poor reputation in terms of hooliganism and crowd safety. Violence at sports events has been on the rise in recent years, particularly in football and ice hockey.
"The European football championships are the third-biggest sporting event on the planet," added Schmid. "We need to seize this unique opportunity to present Switzerland in a positive way."
The Swiss sport minister spoke of his "shock" at the violent scenes outside a stadium in Sicily earlier this month in which a policeman died.
The tragedy led to the suspension of all football across Italy and official demands for tougher anti-hooligan measures. Schmid made it clear that lawlessness would not be tolerated at football grounds or anywhere else.
Violence in sport
Last month sports authorities and federations adopted a plan of action to counter the growing problem of violence in sport. Signatories agreed to act quickly to implement joint projects and measures.
They are being aided by a new anti-hooliganism law – limited until the end of 2009 – introducing stadium bans, a national hooligan database, travel restrictions for known troublemakers and increased police powers.
Euro 2008 will see the largest military operation since the Second World War. The plan is to deploy up to 15,000 soldiers at an estimated cost of SFr10 million ($8 million).
Troops will be mainly used to support police at Switzerland's four Euro 2008 venues – the capital Bern, Basel, Geneva and Zurich. It will be decided later this year whether police reinforcements will be needed from abroad.
Schmid was joined on Thursday by Benedikt Weibel, who was appointed in January as Switzerland's official delegate to Euro 2008.
The former Federal Railways chief said neighbouring Germany had set a high standard with its organisation of last summer's World Cup. But he saw no reason why Switzerland and joint hosts Austria couldn't rise to the challenge.
He said the tournament, which runs from June 7 until June 29, provided Switzerland with a unique opportunity to sell itself to the world. Slipping on his old transport hat, Weibel added that he hoped fans would make extensive use of public transport and leave their cars at home.
Organisers say Euro 2008 will be the biggest sporting event hosted by the two countries; more than 4.8 billion people are expected to follow its progress, either live or on television.
swissinfo with agencies
Post-match riots in Basel marred the Swiss football championship decider in May last year. One hundred people were injured in one of the worst episodes of football violence ever seen in the country.
Hooliganism has increased in Switzerland in recent years. According to estimates, there are around 400 hooligans and 600 sympathisers.
Switzerland is joint host of Euro 2008 with Austria. The tournament kicks off on June 7 in Basel and ends on June 29 in Vienna. Fifteen of the 31 matches will take place in Switzerland – six in Basel and three each in Geneva, Bern and Zurich.
In compliance with the JTI standards