8 September ~ On July 30, the Swedish league game between reigning champions Malmö and Djurgården was abandoned after 11 minutes with the home team 1-0 up when a firecracker was let off. Last Monday the disciplinary committee of the Swedish football association (SvFF) announced that the match should be replayed. Their decision was greeted with astonishment as it contradicted the approach taken to two similar incidents this season. Three games have been interrupted by fireworks. In April, an assistant referee temporarily lost his hearing in one ear as a cracker went off near him.
At the time of the incident, newly promoted Syrianska were leading AIK of Stockholm by a single goal. Syrianska were later given a 3-0 victory and AIK fined 150,000 SEK (about £15,000). A month later, the southern derby between Malmö and Helsingborg was also interrupted when the away team's keeper Pär Hansson had a firework explode close to him and was then physically attacked a supporter who had run on to the pitch. In this case, the SvFF also awarded a victory to Helsingborg while fining Malmö the same amount as AIK.
The referees in both games had followed directives given by SvFF before the start of the season that any disturbances – such as fans running on, ”unrest in the crowd”, or the use of pyrotechnics – would be reason to abandon a game. There was also directive for match delegates to listen for any racist or derogatory chants, in particular those aimed at the referee or a named player – although it is unclear how "derogatory" is being defined.
Of course, the two incidents caused a debate with no one willing to admit responsibility. The fireworks were thrown from the stands occupied by fans of the fined clubs, as shown by video footage from both stadium security and police. Officials from the fined clubs said they can only do so much to control their fans, while the home teams both said they had done what was required in terms of ground security.
Swedish fans generally seem inclined to blame the SvFF for not taking the right disciplinary decisions while the SvFF tend to opt for blaming society at large. The police, meanwhile, claimed they had all that was necessary while all the positions outlined above have received support from some media commentators.
The debate had cooled off before being reignited by the second incident at Malmö in July. In its announcement this week, the disciplinary committee said that video footage did not make it clear who had thrown the firecracker, though most observers thought that it was from the away stand.
Malmö's managing director Per Svensson was not happy with the decision. His club had been disadvantaged for a second time and, as he pointed out, hooligans have now been given a precedent to stop any game. If your team is losing, just throw on an explosive and await the referee's whistle. It seems there is a one in three chance that you will get a replay. Hans Andersson