If you got the impression that football fans were becoming better behaved, then you’d be right.
Co-operation between clubs, authorities, sports groups and the local community plays a key role in reducing problem scenarios at Finnish sports events, according to Jouko Ikonen, an investigator at the Finnish Sports Ethics Centre (SUEK).
“There is a dialogue, and parties take the matter seriously” says Ikonen. “Of course, we can always add more cooperation, so that any negative incidents don’t increase” he adds.
Marcus Manninen, chair of the Finnish Football Association’s disciplinary committee, says that crowds have become fairly well behaved this season.
“I feel that the number of problem cases is slightly lower than in the last three years” says Manninen. “When the football season is over, there will probably be more cases, so the final comparison can’t be done yet”.
Manninen believes that Finnish clubs have been able to communicate more clearly to their supporters that bad behaviour will be penalized.
The types of behaviour that can get fans and clubs into trouble includes setting off fireworks, smoke bombs and strobe lights.
Moving The Fights
But researchers note that trouble can flare up far from the grounds, where clubs and event security have no control.
A fight between supporters of rival Helsinki football clubs HIFK and HJK in July took place in Kirkkonummi. One man was taken to hospital after being badly beaten in the clashes. Police say the fight was arranged in advance, a few days before a local derby in Helsinki between the two clubs.
Ban The Fans?
In Finland, there have been discussions about a registry system for persistent problem fans, or taking measures to ban them from sporting events.
At present, you can be excluded from a sporting event if you are drunk or displaying other unwanted behaviour, and could cause a safety hazard within the grounds.
Experts say a registration system is just one of the tools they could use to cut down on disruptive fans.
In the coming months, Finland will be host to several major sporting events, including the European Basketball Championships at the end of August, and football men’s World Cup qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey.
“Iceland fans are coming a log way, but they have a good reputation” says Jouko Ikonen. “There are probably no trouble expected, although anything is possible”.