While the Coronavirus pandemic emptied sports stadia in Belgium, 1,892 persons were banned from football matches between 2019 and 2021, Belga News Agency reports.
An increasing number of prohibitions stemmed from acts of violence outside venues, De Zondag newspaper reported on Sunday. Quoting figures from Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, it said such cases represented half of the bans imposed last year.
In 2019, a total of 1,127 persons were banned from Belgium’s stadia. In 2020 and 2021, years marked by the pandemic, the numbers were 596 and 169 respectively. The duration of the bans ranged from three months to five years.
During the period under review, 865 prohibitions were issued for assault and battery or hate crimes inside venues, including 19 linked to racism. Several matches have recently been marred by outbreaks of violence, often extreme, that has led to a crackdown on offenders. At the end of last year, several matches descended into "scenes of war" as supporters of opposing teams heckled players and each other before full-blown brawls broke out.
- 22 football fans convicted for organising fight club
- 100 German hooligans arrested in Antwerp ahead of football game
- New rules on the use of fireworks at football matches
Offences committed outside the stadia include aggressive behaviour on highway parking lots and organised fights between groups of fans. This has been linked to the fact that matches were played behind closed doors due to the health measures related to the Coronavirus, so the violence shifted away from the stadia.