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Soccer: Grasshoppers president says he was blackmailed by own fans

ZURICH (Reuters) - The president of fallen Swiss giants Grasshopper Zurich wants tougher sentences for football hooligans and has said he was “blackmailed” by the club’s own fans on Sunday.

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Angry Grasshopper supporters threatened to storm the pitch after their team fell 4-0 behind to Lucerne in a Swiss Super League match, forcing a match involving the team to be called off for the second time in two months.

If the result is confirmed by the Swiss Football League disciplinary commission, the 27-times Swiss champions will be relegated, ending an unbroken 68 years in the top flight.

“I will look to speak to politicians and the federation. We need action now,” Stephan Rietiker told a news conference on Monday. “A mix of repression and dialogue is needed. It is a society problem.

“In this country, car drivers get tougher punishments than hooligans.”

Dozens of fans moved to the front of the terraces and threatened to storm the pitch after Lucerne’s fourth goal and Rietiker said he had no option but to talk to them.

The fans demanded the players hand over their shirts as they were “not worthy” of wearing them - a demand to which the club agreed.

“The intention was to calm things down,” said Rietiker.

“I went against my heart and agreed to giving up the shirts. It was the best thing to do in this situation otherwise we could have had hooligans in the dressing-room.”

“Clear threats were been made by fans. It was clear blackmail. But I had to weigh things up. There was not much police there. I decided to fulfill the jersey gesture.”

Coach Uli Forte, meanwhile, said he would stay with the club for next season’s campaign in the second tier.

Swiss football has been plagued by fan violence over the years, far removed from the Alpine nation’s reputation for peace and order.

Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond