KEIR RADNEDGE in MANCHESTER: Russia is promising a revisionist revolution as far as fans are concerned when the country hosts the World Cup in 2018.
Not only is a ‘fans law’ aimed at curbing domestic stadia violence being enacted in parliament but 2018 visitors “will be treated as kings here in our World Cup” in the land which cradled the most virulent anti-royalist movement of the last century.
Alexander Djordjadze, deputy chairman of the 2018 World Cup local organising committee, held out such a utopian vision in addressing a forum on a ‘A Unique Russian Perspective’ at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester Central.
In terms of logistics the Russians, whose LOC is headed up by President Vladimir Putin, have made an impressive start. World Cup tickets will double as visas and intercity rail travel across the vast distances between World Cup venues will also be free to ticket-holders.
One of the major negative issues the Russians had to overcome, during the highly contentious bidding process, concerned hooligan violence and racist attitudes within the domestic game.
Promises of rapid change proved easier to state than to achieve and further incidents have continued to be reported across the Russian league.
But finally, Djordjadze insisted, the vista was changing.
He said: “Two days ago we passed a fans law to deal with such examples of extreme ultra behaviour in the stadia with serious fines and match bans as well as the suspension of business for organisers of matches.
“But that is just a first step in the process. As the LOC we cannot regulate matters within the Russian league but the matter is very serious and we are glad the government is taking steps to eradicate this [hooligan] problem.
“We believe the World Cup, by generating new and safer and beautiful venues, will change our fan culture completely to a family culture and away from elements of a hooligan culture. In any case, we are talking about just extreme elements and you can find them anywhere.
“We admire the British experience because what you achieved in England in the past 30 years was a true revolution, seeing stadia as a place for families rather than as a battleground between two clubs.
“We believe all this can be done within four or five years.”
The ‘fans law’ was approved by the lower house of the Russian parliament and now goes to the Federation Council, the upper house, before obtaining the signed assent of President Putin.
The law proposes that public order offences in and around a stadium should be punishable a fine of up to $500 or a 15-day detention. Contravening fan behaviour laws could mean fines from $50 to $100 or 160 hours of community service and a ban from attending sporting events of between one to six months.
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