Away supporter ban considered
7 April ~ Now in their fifth straight season in Sweden's second tier, Stockholm's Hammarby start their season tonight away at Assyriska, based in Södertälje, just to the south of the capital. While their sizeable travelling support makes the short journey, the calls for draconian measures in the wake of the tragic start of the Swedish domestic football season appear to be little more than cosmetic. In Södertälje, the local council announced that the branch of Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol monopoly store, closest to Assyriska's home ground will close three hours earlier than normal ahead of the game.
With bars, restaurants and other Systembolaget outlets in close vicinity likely to cash in, this knee-jerk reaction is one feeble outcome that has followed in the aftermath of the violent attack which killed a 43-year-old Djurgården supporter on his way to his club's opening match at Helsingborg on March 30.
Sweden's second supporter violence-related death since 2002 has brought an intense media focus on how to tackle hooliganism. Sweden's minister for Culture and Sports, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, is usually only visible every four years, when calling for sanctions against upcoming hosts of Olympic Games. Now, however, she has stepped out of hibernation and into the media spotlight, calling for harsh penalties including a ban on away supporters and the removal of standing sections.
These were two proposals included in a 2011 report written by former police commissioner Björn Eriksson on how the Swedish government should tackle the problem. So far has seen very little of the report's contents have been brought into effect due to a failure to reach any consensus between politicians, clubs and supporter groups.
The only concrete action after over a week of intense debate has been widespread approval for a ban on supporters wearing masks inside stadiums, with IFK Gothenburg being the latest club to push this through. While supporter groups across the country have been united in their condemnation of an act of meaningless violence which tainted Swedish football, Djurgården's match against AIK in the first Stockholm derby of the season next week will offer the first sign of whether lessons have been learnt. Henrik Manninen