Alexander Djordjadze, the Deputy Chief Executive of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, has called fears surrounding hooliganism in Russia “overblown”.
This comes as Russia seeks to avoid crowd trouble at this year’s Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.
Numerous altercations were reported between football fans at the Euro 2016 continental event last year. However, Djordjadze, speaking at the World Football Forum in Changsha in China, has said hooliganism would not be a problem at the major tournaments to be held in Russia in the near future.
“We don’t see any problems with the hooligans,” Djordjadze told Agence France Presse.
“Hooliganism is more endemic for the club football. The World Cup and Confederations Cup have slightly different population groups coming so we don’t see hooliganism as a security threat.
“The security threat comes from terrorism nowadays – but hooliganism is not a problem. Of course, it’s overblown by the press in certain countries. Honestly it’s such a minuscule issue compared to preparations for the World Cup.
“But the World Cup will be very secure, so we encourage fans to come.”
Particularly vicious clashes broke out outside the stadium in Marseille between fans of Russia and England before the match between the two.
One England fan, Andrew Bache, was left in a coma as a result of his injuries. He was subjected to an attack with iron bars from Russian fans, who also clashed with England followers inside the Stade Vélodrome.
Another incident involving Russian football fans came before their country’s second group match with Slovakia. French policemen stopped a bus carrying more than 43 supporters traveling from Marseille to Lille. This included three men who were subsequently charged, all of whom were reportedly leading members of a group called the Russian Fans’ Union.
Russian officials including Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov have also downplayed the risk of crowd trouble during the World Cup.
A fan-ID service applicable for all those entering the country will also help reduce problems, it is hoped. But other Russian officials have appeared even less concerned about the prospect of hooliganism.
Russian Football Union (RFU) Board member and politician Igor Lebedev even proposed legalizing hooliganism and turning it into a sport. Lebedev, who congratulated Russian fans for their violent attacks on England supporters in Marseille, claimed organized brawls among football fans “could turn fans’ aggression in a peaceful direction”.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill tightening regulations against football supporters found guilty of misbehaving at sporting events.
The law, which forms a set of amendments to the existing “Code on Administrative Regulations”, doubles fines for those violating suspension orders from stadiums from a maximum of 25,000 rubles (£331/$432/€388) to 50,000 rubles (£662/$864/€776). A detention of between 10 and 15 days remains a possibility.
The text of the law stipulates that “severe violations of fans’ behavior during official sports tournaments” implies all actions “which pose a threat to security, life and harm to the health of those present at sports events and surrounding vicinities”.
Foreign sports fans who have previously faced charges of public order violations in other countries will also be barred from entering the country.