Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Polish fans avoid hooligan ban, but only if they behave

AFP, WARSAW

Poland’s premier league said on Tuesday it would not extend a blanket away-fan ban imposed in the dying days of last season, but that supporters are on notice to behave, amid pressure to beat hooliganism before Euro 2012.

In a statement, the Ekstraklasa said the decision came at crunch talks in Warsaw on Tuesday between its board and heads of its 16 clubs, after meetings that also involved fan organizations.

The Ekstraklasa begins tomorrow.

“Organized groups of away fans will be allowed to attend matches in the T-Mobile Ekstraklasa, provided each official fan club signs up an agreement between the fan clubs and the Ekstraklasa,” the statement said.

“Under that agreement, the fans clubs have pledged to observe the law at T-Mobile Ekstraklasa matches, both on the way to the stadium and inside,” it said. “Violation of the pledge will result in sanctions being imposed by the Ekstraklasa’s legal arm, including possible away-fan bans for the team concerned for the rest of the 2011-12 season.”

If any fan clubs refuse to sign up, home sides will have the automatic right to bar them from away games.

The Ekstraklasa decision echoes a decision on July 14 by the governing body of the second division, which began on Friday last week.

At the end of last month, police asked Poland’s PZPN soccer association to prolong a sweeping ban imposed in May into the new season.

The PZPN passed the decision to league authorities, who said barring fans ran against the spirit of the game, but nonetheless pledged to act.

Poland is striving to stamp out hooliganism before the 2012 European Championship, which the country will host with neighboring Ukraine.

Polish authorities say there are up to 5,000 hardcore hooligans in the nation of 38 million, in a gang culture that has arisen since the communist regime crumbled in 1989 and apes England’s once-notorious “firms.”

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