CAIRO: Some 75 people have been charged with murder and negligence in connection with the riot which led to the deaths of 74 people after a game between hosts Al Masry and Al Ahly in Port Said on February 1.

The league season has been cancelled and the football association disbanded in the wake of the country’s worst such sports disaster.

Those charged include nine police officers, among them Major-General Issam Samak, who was Port Said’s chief of security.

Trouble had flared before and during the game but the riot began at the final whistle of a game which Al-Masry had won 3-1. Hologan fans set upon the rival supporters in a pitch battle which lasted up to half an hour. Police and seurity officials were accused of being in league with the rioters and doing little or nothing to quell the trouble.

A statement by the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office said the charges were based on video footage of the riot and the confessions of suspects. It said the killing of the protesters was planned in advance and that the culprits prepared for the massacre with knifes, rocks and explosives. Fans from the two teams have a history of animosity.

The riot sparked clashes over several days in Cairo between police and protesters accusing the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, of being compliant in the attacks.

Simultaneusly, in Doha, an ICSS conference was told by the president of the Egyptian Footballers’ Association that social media had been a factor in the violence .

Magdy Abdel Ghany described the incident as a “total disaster for the sport.” He said: “One of the very important facts that caused this anger and rage between fans is the inference of social media, Fans are very young which makes it easier to drive the anger and make them do acts without knowing.”

Ghany said that violence must have been premeditated: “Before the game some of the ultras [extremist fans] talked to each other on Facebook chat. They used the lack of policing and they prepared themselves to do something before the game because the fans of Port Said [al-Masry] had no reason to attack the other fans – they won the game.”

Asked why the security personnel failed to intervene, he said “Maybe they didn’t imagine what was going to happen after the game. Maybe they didn’t prepare themselves to looking for this situation, maybe they didn’t know exactly there was some anger between both fans.”

World federation FIFA has reminded Egyptian clubs that they should honour players’ contracts despite the league’s cancellation.

A letter from FIFA to the EFA stated: “After having duly taken note of the contents of the documentation submitted to our attention, we understand that following the tragic events that occurred in Port Said at the beginning of February, your association has decided to suspend all football activities until further notice.

“In this connection, your association as well as several of your affiliated clubs are seeking for guidance as to the possibility for the clubs to either reduce the salary payable to their players … or to extend the duration of the terms of the contract for a period equal to the time the national championship has remained suspended.

“In this respect, we would like to point out that, as a general rule, contracts need to be respected in accordance with the terms originally agreed between the parties.”

“Furthermore, we would like to state that in line with this general legal principle, basically, the terms of a contract may only be modified or amended if both parties to the contract agree.”

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