Fighting and regulating violence and hooliganism in Kenyan football
Fighting and regulating violence and hooliganism in Kenyan football
For decades, Kenyan football has been no stranger to acts of hooliganism and violence perpetrated both within and outside the environs of the stadia.
The recent spates of violence involving Kenya’s top two and the most followed clubs, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia sent out a clear message that more needs to be done to fight this vice that threatens the very essence and fabric of the social aspects of sports.
With who does the buck stop when it comes to combating this vice? What more can and should be done at legislative (national and federation) level to tackle hooliganism?
The responsible parties
The clubs and federations
In international matches, the duty of ensuring stadium safety and security of all persons and property inside the stadium and within its immediate environs lies with the federations. In club competitions, this duty lies with the clubs. Liability for failure to comply with this duty is strict and is regardless of the question of culpable conduct or culpable oversight. Whereas the home team is tasked with providing safety and security, each club / federation is liable for any improper conduct among its spectators.
On the other hand, it is the duty of the regular police to ensure the safety and security of persons and property situated outside the scope or reasonable environs of the stadium. As such, clubs ought not to be sanctioned for any acts performed by their supporters outside the scope or immediate environs of the match venue.
This is without prejudice to the right of any private citizen to file a lawsuit for damages against any of the perpetrators and, depending on the facts and circumstances, also against the club to whom the perpetrators belong.
Measures and solutions
A raft of preventive and punitive measures, although not exhaustive, could be adopted as expounded below.
Although there exists no national law on violence and hooliganism in sports, the penal code is in itself sufficient enough to curb and deal with most of the vices, given that a majority of the acts bear the hallmarks and characteristics of crimes punishable by law. A rigorous search and identification process of the perpetrators within the stadium environs culminating in charges before a court of law would therefore go a long way in reducing incidents of violence and hooliganism in sports.
Alternatively, the government could consider enacting a special law on violence and hooliganism in sports which could make the following acts, (among others which are already forbidden under the penal code and related laws) punishable by law:
- Entering the playing area without authority.
- Throwing objects at or towards the field or spectator areas.
- Selling and consuming alcohol inside the stadiums.
These laws could also:
- Empower courts to impose a stadium ban on any person convicted of a sports related offence.
- Provide for the establishment of a Sports Policing Unit.
The presence of stewards is not enough in itself.
Safety and security regulations
The FKF should contemplate enacting safety and security regulations, or at least consider implementing such regulations, if existent. These regulations should among other things, contain the following minimum mandatory requirements to be met by clubs:
- That clubs appoint a national security officer. This must be a person experienced in working with public authorities and the police, knowledgeable on event organisation, spectator supervision and event safety and security matters. His duties could entail:
- developing, coordinating and delivering a safety and security concept for the matches, including at training sites, official hotels, transport hubs,
- ensuring the continued education and training of all stadium security officers employed during events; and
- conducting briefings, devising a training and education programme and providing guidance and advice to all stadium security officers.
- That clubs appoint a senior national security advisor (not necessarily on full time), who must be a serving senior police officer to act as a link between the clubs/federation and the national and local authorities.
- That clubs appoint, in consultation with the national security officer, a stadium security officer tasked with ensuring safety and security at the designated stadium.
In addition to the above minimum mandatory requirements, the FKF safety and security regulations could contain provisions:
- Prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol inside stadiums.
- Denying access to or removing any persons who cannot prove their right to be in the stadium either because they (i) present a risk due to consumption of alcohol and/or drugs, (ii) are subject to a banning order or (iii) refuse to give their consent to searches.
The FKF Disciplinary Code
The sanctions recently imposed on clubs in the form of hefty fines and playing behind closed doors are welcome. However, the criteria used in arriving at the amount of compensation for lost revenue to be paid by the sanctioned club to any club(s) which will have to play its next home match against the club sanctioned behind closed doors remains questionable.
Nevertheless, there is room for further review of the FKF Disciplinary Code, for example, by prohibiting pitch invasions and sanctioning clubs whose fans invade the pitch.
Pooling of resources
It is an arduous task to police a stadium crowd. It is therefore vital for the police, the federation and the clubs to develop an effective working relationship. This can be done by:
- The FKF liaising with the national police and engaging the latter in coming up with a part time special police force of football intelligence officers assigned to (i) follow high risk matches, (ii) gather intelligence and (iii) spot any potential trouble -makers or ringleaders or banned offenders who may turn up at matches.
- The FKF, the police and the clubs liaising and interacting with the fans.
This would also help in preventing the clubs charged with violent misconduct from claiming that the perpetrators of the acts in question are not their fans but were rather goons hired by their rivals with the aim of tarnishing their name and/or getting them into trouble with the authorities.
The government and the federations can only do as much. Ultimately, it is upon the fans themselves to change their culture, outlook and approach during matches, as it is they who are the conservers and promoters of sports, and their acts will only serve towards causing further harm, pain and suffering on their beloved clubs.
Felix Majani is an International Sports Lawyer and Consultant. Ad hoc clerk at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Director, African Sports Law and Business Journal. email@example.com.