After a flood of flares forced the abrupt end of a weekend top league football match, Switzerland’s minister for sport wants the football community to get its act together.
“These people are risking human lives with their flares,” Sport Minister Viola Amherd told Swiss daily newspaper Blick. She called on the Swiss Football Association as well as club presidents, managers, officials and stadium operators to take action.
“Together they need to send a clear signal. Hooligans need to be convicted and banned from stadiums. It’s only through consistent measures that such happenings can be prevented,” said Amherd, head of the Ministry of Defence, Civil Protection and Sportexternal link.
The latest scandal occurred in Sion in western Switzerland on Saturday, where Zurich Grasshoppers fans – upset to find their team 0:2 behind the locals – set off an alarming number of pyrotechnics, so many that the match had to be called off after 55 minutes to allow firefighters to put out the flames.
“I strongly condemn the actions of the rioters,” said Amherd. “This can’t happen again.”
For its part, the Grasshoppers Club has apologised for the “unacceptable behaviour”, acknowledging the danger to fans, players and helpers.
Some have questioned whether stadium employees in Sion should have been more thorough when letting fans inside.
Hooliganism has been a problem throughout Switzerland in recent years. Violence among football fans has been on the rise in Zurich, triggered by a smaller group of violent fans. The police assume that around 200 people belong to this group.
In a landmark trial in 2017, a man received a three-year prison sentence for throwing fireworks and smoke bombs during a match between Lucerne and St Gallen.
In 2016, Switzerland banned nearly 800 known hooligans from travelling to the Euro 2016 football tournament in France.
A database launched on a trial basis has been tracking the violent activity at matches in Switzerland.