Football hooliganism has flared up in Belgium recently. To keep people safe, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Belgium's football association have created an action plan. This will essentially ban repeat offenders from entering a stadium.
The approach will rely on quicker punishment for offenders and a uniform approach to incidents, according to Verlinden. Further to this, the penalties will be football-specific. Verlinden added that the proposal will include "stricter penalties, longer stadium bans and higher fines."
Clubs held responsible
It will be up to clubs to help track down and punish fans that go too far. "We foresee severe sanctions – up to a lifelong stadium ban for repeat offenders", said Pro League CEO Lorin Parys.
Sanctions are set to tighten, with a zero-tolerance policy for violence, racism and attacks. A maximum term stadium ban will increase from five years to ten years.
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Anyone caught making racist remarks or storming the field will never be allowed into national matches again. According to Parys, fans with stadium bans can currently far too easily attend matches, which he wants to work on.
The Pro League is working on establishing better crown control through using a new ticketing system. The football association signed up to a partnership with Roboticket last month, a company that will ensure that the name on the season ticket actually matches the person who bought it. According to Parys, that should help preventing offenders with stadium bans with entering a stadium.
In future, the Pro League is looking into using facial recognition technology at stadiums. "But that has to be possible both technically and legally," Parys stressed.
Crucially, anyone who insults or threatens a steward will be banned for months or longer. Parys underlined that the stewards will then be more empowered to deal with fans with a stadium ban, adding that they deserve more credit for their work in trying to keep stadiums safe.