Soccer-Serbian government to take tougher stance on hooligans

BELGRADE, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Authorities in Serbia are set to take drastic measures against soccer violence after a policeman was seriously injured during a first division match on Sunday, the sports ministry said.

The policeman, wearing plain clothes, was attacked by fans during Red Star Belgrade’s match with Hajduk Kula and fired shots into the air in self-defence as they battered him with burning torches and broken seats.

His condition is stable after he was treated for burns, cuts and bruises in a nearby hospital.

“The incident should prove a turning point in tackling the problem and requires a consistent implementation of the new anti-violence law,” sports and youth minister Snezana Samardzic-Markovic told Reuters on Monday.

“Amendments to the anti-violence law at sports events have enraged the hooligans because they envisage stricter punishment for the offenders,” she said.

“What we need is a united front including clubs, sports bodies, players and state institutions to condemn the violence and fans to distance themselves from hooligans.”

“While educational measures are desirable, repressive action is necessary and police have no choice but to act swiftly and decisively while the justice ministry should do the same.”

The law envisages up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the offenders.

Earlier on Monday, the Serbian Football Association said it needed the government’s help to crack down on violence.

“The hooliganism has exceeded the powers of the Football Association to act on its own and punish the culprits, therefore we extend our full support to the state authorities in taking appropriate measures,” it said.

“We regret that efforts by the Football Association to implement the anti-violence law through educational meetings with fans and police have failed to bear fruit.” (Editing by Miles Evans)