The Last Word / Stop the Violence or Close the Stadium

Ron Koffman
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Ron Koffman

Saturday's tragic incident at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan handed the screen over to the powers that be, but none of those powers have any solution to the problem of violence in sport - unless you count rambling on endlessly to be a solution.

In the stadium there were 280 policeman and 425 security guards, but they didn't do anything - maybe because it was cold. Exactly when do the police plan to do something about tackling violence at sports grounds?

When will the various branches of the force start working together instead of improvising? When will the force commanders stop babbling nonsense to the media? What exactly did Dan Region Commander Haim Karimka mean when he said, "we are trying to minimize the phenomenon"? Maybe instead of minimizing or maximizing they should be talking about optimizing.

About two months ago, a group of senior police officers traveled to Europe to learn how their colleagues there deal with fan violence. Had they implemented anything they learned in Europe, they would have had forces stationed outside stadiums, carrying out searches, and demonstrating a massive presence - not inside the stadiums where it's too late to do anything.

Had police intelligence units tried to surf fan web sites they might have made some pinpoint arrests. Had police in the stadium not looked on as clashes broke out they might have prevented the mass brawls.

But it isn't just the police force that gives a bad name to moonlighting - the courts operate in a vacuum. "An unnecessary request" is the courts' standard response to police petitions to ban violent fans from attending games. And even when they do grant an order, they often show mercy if a minor's parents ask for their son to be allowed to attend the championship game because, after all, they bought him a season ticket.

Feeling they were on to a hot item, Knesset members and ministers, lacking any knowledge of the subject whatsoever, were happy to broadcast their opinions. Had they ever asked themselves how it is that in the United States there is very little sports fan violence, even though violence among young Americans is on the rise?

The answer is, that in the 1980s when there was a riot in the parking lot of the New York Giants Stadium, state governor Dianne Fiorillo, warned that if there was any repeat of such violence, the stadium would be closed down.

That should provide food for thought for Israel's mayors, the only group that has neither talked too much about the subject, nor done anything about it. The mayors have to intervene immediately, because the police won't shut down stadiums and put their people out of some nice Saturday moonlighting work.

So what if everybody knows that the next time something blows up, it might be real explosives and not some homemade plastic flare. That won't stop Itche Menahem and Co. from heading off to Zurich to whisper in Sepp Blatter's ear assurances that Ramat Gan is safe.

Of course it is.