A senior Ukrainian police officer on Thursday said sweeping reforms in football game security were necessary in the wake of unprecedented fan violence, to allow the former Soviet republic to host the Euro2012 championship, according to DPA. "We must put an end to this (violence), we must meet the standards of the European (football) championship," said Volodymyr Maevsky, Ukraine`s top sports security official. "Our country`s reputation is depending on it."
Maevsky`s remarks came days after unprecedented violence in Ukraine`s domestic league, including a pitched battle lasting nearly a half hour between hundreds of fans and police in the eastern provincial city Akhtyrka.
The UEFA last April awarded Ukraine and Poland rights to co-host the Euro2012 championship.
Maevsky said Ukrainian police already were beginning reforms in football security aimed at bringing the country`s football games to a European standard.
Team administrators will take over responsibility currently held by police for vetting fans entering a stadium for weapons and dangerous objects, and club stewards rather than police will become the first line of defence between opposing sides` fans, and players on the pitch, he said.
"This is how all Europe works, and we need to work that way too," Maevsky said.
The Sunday fracas in Akhtyrka saw numerous objects including lit flares and torn-up seating hurled at law enforcers and players. Police were initially passive until receiving reinforcements, after which a police assault using clubs and tear gas broke up brawling fans, and hospitalised dozens.
An expectation by clubs that the police held the sole responsibility for maintaining security during a match, a "mind-set" dating back to Soviet days, was leaving law enforcers thin on the ground and unable to perform their duties, Maevsky said.
Penalties for disruptive fan behaviour such as running onto the pitch during a game - currently punishable in Ukraine by a misdemeanour fine - need to be increased substantially, he added.
Banning of repeat offenders - currently a gray area in Ukrainian law - must be an option for police, in order to prevent increased violence, Maevsky said.
Fan violence has been rising in Ukraine in recent years. Fistfights between side supporters, once almost unheard of, have been an almost routine occurrence at domestic league games this season.
Last May at the national cup championship police special forces waded into stands containing Dynamo Kyiv supporters, in an attempt to arrest three fans who had lit flares.
The police assault aired on national television live left dozens in hospital, including women and children.