Superliga kicks off to fireworks, arrests

Politicians want football clubs to pay for extra police presence after arrest of 24 fans in violence connected to Sunday’s Copenhagen-Aalborg match

Arrests, fires and last-minute goals featured as FC Copenhagen kicked off its spring season on Sunday. Dozens of fans were arrested in violent clashes, and the game itself suffered from delays caused by crowd trouble as the league leaders escaped from Aalborg with a 1-1 draw after both teams scored in the last moments of the game.


But it was the action in the stands and in the streets that has gotten all the attention, due to the arrest of 24 in incidents that occurred both before and after the match.


Following the game, both clubs were highly critical of their respective fans' behavior, and despite the Danish Football Union (DBU) initiating disciplinary cases against both clubs, the issue has now transcended the pitch and has sparked a political debate.


Michael Aastrup Jensen, a spokesman from the opposition party Venstre, told the newspaper Berlingske that football clubs should be made to contribute more to the extensive costs involved in providing police protection during football fixtures.


“We have to come to terms with the fact that the police spend an increasing amount of resources fighting the troublemakers at football games. As a result, we need to look at alternative payment methods now to force the football clubs to clean up their ranks,” Jensen said.


The Policemen's Union supports the idea of football clubs footing part of the bill, referring to the Swedish model, where football clubs pay 920 Swedish krona an hour per policeman during high-risk matches, as an incentive to come up with ways to reduce the number of police needed.


“When we have to devote hundreds of officers every weekend to maintain order and security at football games, the rest of the Danish population will naturally see a waning police presence in the rest of the country.”


Responding to “we are champions” chants from Copenhagen fans, Lars Lynge Jakobsen, the Aalborg sports director, referred to them as “champions of idiocy”, but at the same time contended that the football clubs can only do so much.


“I feel completely powerless. I really can’t see how I can solve this. It’s easy for politicians to sit there and comment but they should really be contacting the football clubs and helping us solve this problem. The game was delayed because we spent extra time frisking the fans. They still managed to smuggle in fireworks in.”


Both the Radikale (R), a member of the governing coalition, and the opposition Konservative (K) have dismissed any notions of the football clubs having to pay for the police presence, indicating that this will only lead to a slippery slope, as Jeppe Mikkelsen (R) explained.


“It’s about precedence really. What’s next then? Will the bars that serve the fans before the games also have to pay?”


Hooliganism is not widespread among Danish football fans, but steps have been taken to prevent it entirely, including fan registration and mandatory bussing of away fans. Fingerprinting has also been mentioned as a possible solution. The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (S), told Berlingske that high-risk games could also be moved to earlier times to stem the violence.


"Playing games earlier in the day means troublemakers can't consume the same amounts of alcohol and the police have an easier time controlling the crowds.”


The fans themselves have been critical towards the steps and FC Copenhagen fan group FCKFC argued that law-abiding fans should not have to suffer because of a few unruly types.


“These developments are dangerous for the future of Danish football. Firstly, it’s stereotyping all the fans as criminals and secondly it creates a pall of fear around the culture of attending football games. Additionally, it is understandable that free citizens don’t want to have to take a bus, which may leave miles away from where they live, just to watch a football game.”


Fans affected by bussing requirements have begun boycotting matches in response to the measure. Supporters of archrivals Copenahgen and Brøndby have been among the most vocal opponents of the bussing requirement. When the two teams last met in November, only a handful of Copenhagen fans made the trip to Brøndby, and Brøndby fans say a similar action is likely then the two clubs meet in Copenhagen in April. 


Fortunately, crowds remained civil at the other football games played in the weekend as Brøndby, Lyngby and Horsens all secured wins, while Aarhus club AGF and second-placed FC Nordsjælland battled to a 1-1 draw. Monday evening saw Odense's OB squander a two-goal cushion as Silkeborg escaped with a valuable point from Odense.