Polish PM targets hooligans after Cup final riot

WARSAW Wed May 4, 2011 11:01am EDT

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish teams could play to empty stadiums as part of a crackdown on hooliganism, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday, a day after violent scenes at the Polish Cup final dealt another blow to the Euro 2012 co-hosts' image.

Police deployed water cannon against fans who invaded the pitch and damaged the tribune after Legia Warsaw won the Cup final 5-4 on penalties against Lech Poznan on Tuesday evening in the northwestern Polish city of Bydgoszcz.

Organizers had decided to go ahead with the match despite advice from police concerned over safety.

"Together with police and local authorities we have decided that events will take place without fans present if the police say they are unable to guarantee safety," Tusk told a news conference.

Poland, who will co-host the 2012 European championship with Ukraine, has already come under fire from UEFA over the behavior of its fans.

Tuesday's riot was witnessed directly by representatives of European soccer's governing body and of the government.

Tusk blamed soccer clubs for cooperating with fan associations that group many troublemakers.

"There seems to be a strange symbiosis between the clubs and these organizations that is a symbol of helplessness," he said.

His government has already announced new legislation to tackle football violence similar to the laws brought in by Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

Officials of Poland's soccer federation PZPN condemned the rioting fans and blamed both organizers and the police for providing inadequate security during and after the game.

"Especially before the Euro, the federation has received a heavy blow, but we are not the only ones. The same goes for the police and for security," PZPN general secretary Zdzislaw Krecina told a news conference.

In March, Lithuanian police made more than 10 arrests and fired teargas at several hundred Polish fans who threw stones and bottles outside the Darius and Girenas stadium in Kaunas before and during a friendly match which their team lost 2-0.

Poland expects hundreds of thousands of fans to visit the country during the European championship in June 2012.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, writing by Patryk Wasilewski and Gareth Jones, editing by Justin Palmer)

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