Belts. Batons. Knives. Knuckle dusters. These are some of the 'weapons' that so-called football 'ultras' have been known to use in mindless acts of violence and assault.
It's the worst kept secret in football that this kind of thuggery still exists, despite certain media outlets only describing these as "altercations" and "scuffles", which quite frankly is an insult to the innocent football supporters that unintentionally get caught up in the chaos. Italy is not the only country that this is common practice, in many parts of Eastern Europe violence in football is associated as a culture which have known links to football and political movements.
UEFA have taken a negligent stance over the years in protecting fans and police at football matches, these unfortunate events have been consistent in recent memory. This has been brought to light by BBC journalist Dan Roan, who reported that various attacks involving Roma fans over the years have gone either unpunished or with very lenient fines to the club itself. This comes after an innocent Liverpool supporter who had travelled from Ireland for the UEFA Champions League semi-final was left in a critical condition in hospital after being attacked by two Roma 'ultras' who were well-known by Italian police, despite this they were still allowed to travel. BBC coverage also uncovered that a Roma fan was seen carrying a hammer, which was concealed in the sleeve of his jacket. UEFA issued a statement about the incident about their apparent 'shock' that the incident occurred, although attacks from Roma fans on opposition supporters in Europe have been a common trait. I am not in any way painting a picture that all Roma fans are part of the 'ultras' organisation, trouble has occurred from a small minority since 2001.
When will UEFA get a grip of their corrupt operating systems? When will they cease prioritising profit as a way of engaging fans and place life time bans on these mindless cowards? Stadium bans and simplistic fines are not enough to keep these hooligans at bay. There are Liverpool fans that I have spoken to that have a genuine sense of fear of their safety when they travel to Rome for the second leg next week, Manchester United and Spurs fans have also experienced trouble at the Stadio Olimpico over the past ten years. National police chiefs have expressed their concerns, according to reports, about the safety of England fans when they travel to Russia this summer for the World Cup.
UEFA is an organisation that prides itself off tradition and heritage, they are terrified of any sort of structural change and this needs to happen immediately before any more people are killed. A police officer died as Spartak Moscow and Atletico Bilbao fans clashed before a Europa League clash back in February, they are currently investigating this matter but I am expecting life time bans and jail terms for those idiots responsible. As a community, we all need to be more vigilant against these sort of actions that occur outside football grounds in the eyes of the football world and the media.
Are there any solutions that we could suggest to our European footballing elite, the ones that get free passes to big football matches, the ones that get treated like royalty at every corporate event, the ones that potentially pocket millions in commission and bonuses on the back of working class football fans that pump endless revenue into the federation. Fan safety needs to be the number one priority, have we not learnt our lessons after Hillsborough? Heysel? Ibrox? It's only a matter of time before another stadium disaster happens and UEFA need to buck their ideas up before another catastrophic incident occurs. Stop pointing the finger and start taking some responsibility.
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