Belgium to reinforce soccer stadium security after violence

Sports

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium’s Interior minister met with league and club officials Monday to present them with details of a draft law aimed at reinforcing the fight against soccer hooliganism following repeated incidents this season.

The meeting took place after a first-division match between Charleroi and Mechelen was stopped over the weekend due to the fans’ behavior. The game was abandoned after Charleroi fans threw flares onto the pitch.

A few weeks ago, the “Classico” between Standard Liege and Anderlecht was also marred by fan disorder and had to be abandoned after 63 minutes.

Last season, the repetition of incidents led to visiting fans being banned by the league for a month in the two top divisions.

“A few fans endanger the safety of many people and thus damage the image of soccer,” Interior minister Annelies Verlinden said after the meeting. “The previously announced strengthening of the soccer law is therefore absolutely necessary.”

As part of the plan devised earlier this year, the Belgian government wants to impose tougher penalties and tighten access to stadiums to keep hooligans away.

Under the new law, which should be approved by the federal government, clubs will be punished more severely if, for instance, they don’t comply with the regulations on ticket sales or if they do not take sufficient precautions to ban the use of flares.

In addition, offences such as physical violence, racism or the use of fireworks would be punishable by stadium bans of up to ten years, instead of the current five.

And to make sure individuals subjected to stadium bans are not allowed at venues, stewards and agents working for private security companies will be able to check fans’ identity to see if it matches names on tickets.

“Everyone must take their responsibilities,” Verlinden said.

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