Lawmakers draft bill against fan violence in Turkey

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 26.06.2019 00:33
Updated 26.06.2019 11:15

Turkish football has long been overshadowed with outbursts of violence by fans, either toward fans of rival teams, their players or the teams they support. Seeking to introduce new laws to further criminalize fan violence, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) drafted a bill on the issue.

Presented to Parliament by the party's Deputy Parliamentary Group Chairman, Mehmet Muş, the bill introduces prison terms of up to three years to anyone "disrupting the course and security of the competition." It also calls for prison terms of up to one year for unauthorized people entering the locker rooms of teams during matches. Apart from fans, the bill also introduces administrative fines for sports clubs not employing security guards in the matches.

In football-mad Turkey, violent fans' actions have sometimes resulted in the deaths of fans of rival teams and have largely been spared punishment except in cases involving injuries and murder. Fans involved in such incidents are often banned from matches. One day after Muş announced the draft bill, 30 defendants went on a trial over incidents in a 2018 game between Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. They were accused of injuring coach Şenol Güneş and attempting to injure player Caner Erkin by hurling foreign objects onto the pitch during a Süper Lig game. They are facing prison terms for the injuries they caused. The court lifted a ban from matches for the suspects, while their trial for causing injuries will continue.

Under the bill, which has 20 articles, the definition of "competition area," which currently includes the stadium and similar structures, will be expanded to "places allocated to players and [club] employees." This is a precaution to stop unauthorized entry into locker rooms by fans or officials of rival clubs, a situation unfortunately experienced in many games, leading to scuffles. Clubs will also be required to pick a board member whose duty will be overseeing stadium security.

Fans who smuggle sharp or flammable objects that may cause injury, into the stadium, training grounds or buses, trains and other vehicles fans travel in together will be sentenced to prison terms of up to two years. In a bid to stop fans who use passes belonging to other fans to watch the matches, the new bill requires fans to use biometric IDs to enter the stadium.

The bill also increases fines for offensive chants during matches. Chants containing threats and insults will be subject to fines and if they contain racism or discrimination against faith, language, ethnicity or gender, they will be subject to prison terms of up to three years.

Mehmet Muş said the purpose of the bill was to cleanse sports of "violence, insults and swear words" and "to create an atmosphere of sportsmanlike conduct for players and fans."

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