MOSCOW (AP) — Russian soccer fans may need government-issued ID cards next season to buy tickets for league games.
Modeled on the “Fan ID” scheme used at last year’s World Cup, a senior sports ministry official said Tuesday that from July 1 fans would need to pass a security check before being allowed to buy tickets. However, the ministry later said the plan wasn’t yet confirmed.
In comments reported by the Tass state news agency, ministry official Irina Grigoryeva said she hopes “these measures will allow us to increase public safety and public order (at games).”
Similar systems in countries like Italy, which introduced an ID system for away fans in league games in 2009 to combat hooliganism, have been blamed for driving away spectators. However, Grigoryeva said the new system in Russia would likely attract more fans “who previously avoided these events because of potential risks.”
The sports ministry later distanced itself from Grigoryeva’s comments. Minister Pavel Kolobkov said in a statement “it is too early to say whether this system will be adopted, in what form and if so, when.”
Without the ID system, average attendances since the World Cup have risen 21 percent to 16,898 in the Russian league this season. It could prove difficult to install advanced security systems at some of the country’s older sports arenas within the next four months, alongside existing plans to add video review technology for next season.
While Russian hooligans caused havoc at the 2016 European Championship, fights at Russian league games have been rare in recent years, though racist abuse remains a problem.
The World Cup ID system kept out some convicted hooligans but was criticized by some Russian fans for being opaque and unaccountable. Violence at the tournament was rare.
However, fan representatives said thousands had been refused IDs for the World Cup with little explanation and no way to appeal in time for the tournament. The number of those refused was far larger than Russia’s official database of hooligans banned from games, and some fans said they had been barred for decades-old convictions for minor offenses such as jaywalking.
The World Cup IDs doubled as Russian visas and allowed fans free travel on many buses and trains. There was no word on whether Russian fans would get similar benefits in the future.
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