Poulsen punch penalty pitch invasion leads to chaos in Copenhagen. Kasper Steenbach reports
A week rarely passes without Flemming Østergaard making his opinion known in the Danish press, either about his own abilities, or the lack of same in others. But at the beginning of June, the wealthy 63-year-old, who in ten years has turned FC Copenhagen into a Champions League club, was surprisingly quiet. As chairman of the Copenhagen team, and thereby also Parken, the Danish national stadium, Østergaard had much explaining to do after referee Herbert Fandel was attacked by a drunken spectator during Denmark’s Euro 2008 qualifier against Sweden.
It all started when Christian Poulsen was sent off for punching Sweden’s Markus Rosenberg in the stomach inside the penalty area, and a spot-kick awarded. This happened in the 89th minute with the match level at 3-3. It looked as if a remarkable Denmark recovery – they had been 3-0 down after 26 minutes – would prove to be in vain. But a home fan responded by running on to the pitch and grabbing Fandel, leading to the match’s abandonment. All this was debated at length in the days afterwards, while Poulsen was reported to the police for assault.
As the fan went into hiding, UEFA handed Denmark an historically harsh disciplinary sentence. That was when the spotlight turn on Østergaard and his staff. How could a spectator, encouraged by 15 pints and a dramatic chain of events in the field, have been able to climb the fence and get past the security to interrupt so important a game?
The same question was raised by Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU), the Danish FA, when emotions had settled (Poulsen was flanked by bodyguards when making his way to a TV studio to apologise to the nation, a few days after the game) and UEFA had presented Denmark with their verdict: a 3‑0 win to Sweden, a three-game ban for Poulsen, a €61,000 (£41,000) fine for the DBU, and an order to play the next four qualifying matches at least 250 kilometres from Copenhagen – with the first, against Liechtenstein in September, to be played without any spectators at all.
“For reasons of principle and in considering the future collaboration with Parken, we’ve decided to a ask an attorney to establish the exact circumstances regarding the basis of liability, between DBU and Parken,” said Allan Hansen, the DBU chairman, after it was revealed that some of the stewards had not received adequate training.
While the DBU attorneys are investigating the possibilities of compensation claims against Parken, the association immediately appealed the UEFA ruling – except for the Poulsen suspension – which DBU general secretary Jim Stjerne Hansen declared himself “shocked” by. “We find that the fine is disproportionately high. In the UEFA charters, it states that a fine of this nature begins at 20,000 kroner [around £2,000], and we aren’t even dealing with a recurring situation. It’s the first encounter of this nature we have ever had. Therefore the amount seems to be unfairly high.”
Hansen is vice-chairman of UEFA’s disciplinary committee, but of course has excused himself in the matter of Denmark’s sentencing. But he added: “With my background and experience working in this area for 17 years, I believe there’s sound basis upon which to appeal the decision, which would strike us quite severely, both sports-wise and financially.”
The appeal was due as WSC was going to press, but should the DBU feel that this verdict is also unfair, they have already considered taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. Before the appeal, UEFA had already commuted one part of the sentence: Denmark will not be compelled to play their next four games 250km from Copenhagen after all, since the only stadium in the country far enough away is in the fishing town of Esbjerg in western Jutland, and can only offer 5,282 covered seats. The European Championship qualifying games between September and November are now expected to be played in Århus, Denmark’s second largest city, in eastern Jutland.
What does Østergaard, the man responsible for the security in Parken, have to say to all of this? He has already taken precautions regarding a possible lawsuit by the DBU, by passing responsibility on to the spectator who stumbled on to the field, causing the match to end before time. “Of course we’ll seek compensation, since we’ll suffer a financial loss. But we’ll hold off commenting on the specific amount until UEFA have given their final verdict. Then we’ll know our expenses,” was the announcement from Parken.
From WSC 246 August 2007