Hooligans are determined to keep a stranglehold on the Belgian soccer competition

Hooligans keep a stranglehold on the Belgian soccer competition. Last night was no different, as the match between Charleroi and KV Mechelen was halted and then called off prematurely. Although security people intercepted many tennis balls and fireworks, they still managed to disrupt the game. It was yet another violent incident in a few months.

That yesterday's match between Charleroi and Mechelen did not go too well was not a complete surprise. The Storm Ultra's, who have been quieting tempers in Charleroi for weeks, had earlier indicated that they would make themselves heard during the match. Unfortunately, although security forces managed to intercept tennis balls and fireworks, they could not prevent them from marring the game. In the end, the referee ended the match early, turning a possible victory for Charleroi into a defeat.

It is not only Charleroi's supporters who are guilty of misconduct. In recent months, the Belgian Pro League has suffered from off-field violence. Less than a month ago, three policemen and around 20 supporters were (slightly) injured during the match between RSC Anderlecht and Standard. During this match, too, it was mainly fireworks that marred the evening.

Stewards are volunteers

Wim Hardyns, a criminologist at UGent, noted in 'De Ochtend' that smuggling in fireworks before a soccer game is not that difficult. "The problem is that stewards, often volunteers, receive only limited training and are actually not allowed to search so thoroughly or look into pockets. As a result, they are just not able to find everything," he said.

"The police are allowed to do that, but you can question whether that is their core task. You can hire surveillance companies, though. They are more professionally organised, and those guards are also allowed more than stewards. In England, you see that this approach is effective. There, certain abuses no longer happen."

Stricter punishment

Reacting to the abuses during and after last Sunday's match between AA Gent and Club Brugge, Pro League CEO Lorin Parys stressed that quicker and stricter punishment is already in place to discourage such behaviour. "Immediately after the perpetrators are identified, they are suspended and not allowed back into the stadium. For throwing fireworks, they will receive a stadium ban of two to ten years, which can go up to 25 years in case of recidivism. A final verdict will follow within 20 working days. This approach works," he confirmed. ​

However, currently, there are no identification checks, which means people with stadium bans can still enter too easily. "We are working hard to change this. Also preventively. But this takes time," Parys added.

On today's (Sunday) Pro League programme is yet another high-risk match: Club Brugge-Antwerp. A game already marred by supporter violence last season. Clubs and security services will be extra vigilant. Meanwhile, the Pro League CEO revealed via Twitter that he is calling all clubs together on Monday morning to further discuss ​
football safety.



Charleroi's Marco Ilaimaharitra and Mechelen's Thibaut Peyre pictured at the end of a soccer match between Sporting Charleroi and KV Mechelen, Saturday 12 November 2022 in Charleroi, on day 17 of the 2022-2023 'Jupiler Pro League' first division of the Belgian championship. The game was stopped because some ultra supporters throw too much fire works on the field. Sporting was leading 1 - 0 but will loose the three points.



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