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World Cup hooligan threat 'overblown'

Sports | May 19, 2017
A top organizer of Russia's World Cup dismissed the threat of hooliganism as "overblown" and "fake" despite concerns after Russian fans went on the rampage at Euro 2016.

Alexander Djordjadze, deputy chief executive of the Russia 2018 organizing committee, gave assurances that fans would be safe at next year's tournament, and blamed negative media coverage for stirring up controversy.

Since well-prepared Russian hooligans struck at Euro 2016 in France, one of the country's legislators has called for hooliganism to be made legal and turned into a spectator sport.

A British documentary also filmed a leading Russian hooligan warning fans to expect a "festival of violence" next year, when the country hosts the World Cup for the first time.

But Djordjadze, speaking at the World Football Forum in Changsha, China, said hooliganism was "not a problem" for the World Cup.

"We don't see any problems with the hooligans. Hooliganism is more endemic for club football," he said. "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."

Djordjadze said South Africa and Brazil, the two last World Cup hosts in 2010 and 2014, also faced questions over security, but ultimately hosted successful tournaments.

"Of course it's overblown," he said, when asked about the threat of fan violence. "It's overblown by press in certain countries. Honestly, it's such a miniscule issue compared to preparations for the World Cup. But the World Cup will be very secure, so we encourage fans to come."

Despite playing down the danger of hooliganism, Djordjadze said the security presence would be high in World Cup host cities, and that Russia would make sure known offenders cannot enter stadiums.

"Measures are taken by our security agencies. They know the people who are on the hooligans' list. They are forbidden to come to the stadiums, similar to the UK practices. So we don't see it's a problem," he said.

Preparations for the World Cup were on track, with all stadiums expected to be completed this year, he said.

The tournament will be on played June 14-July 15 next year, in 11 cities.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE



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