Brazil announces hotline to help fight fan violence
By TALES AZZONI
February 13, 2015 1:07 PM
In this March 22, 2009, file photo, police approach Santos soccer fans to break up a fight with fans from the opposing team, the Corinthians, at a Sao Paulo state championship soccer game in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brazil is dealing with another wave of fan violence just weeks into the new 2015 football season, exposing the continued failure of club officials and local authorities to eradicate the decades-long problem. This year it didn’t take long for Brazilian football to start making headlines for the wrong reasons _ a 16-year-old boy was shot to death after a match. A goalkeeper was injured by fans of Brazil’s most popular club. Supporters of one of the nation’s most successful teams were ambushed inside a subway station. A confrontation between fan groups and police turned supporters away from a game in one of the nation’s most modern venues. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
SAO PAULO (AP) — The Brazilian government is creating a hotline to help fight a wave of fan violence that has brought unwanted attention to local football just weeks into the new season.
The government will also create a nationwide registry of the fan groups who are considered to be at the root of fan violence in the land of football.
The announcement by Brazil’s new sports minister came after a meeting with representatives of the National Association of Fan Groups, which was recently created to improve the dialogue with local authorities and the government.
The hotline will allow the population to denounce fans committing crimes or engaging in violence.
“Fan groups are part of a cultural manifestation and it’s important that they are preserved,” said Sports Minister George Hilton, who took office this year. “But they can’t have members engaging in criminal acts. Fans are important in sports and they need to be protected from bad elements.”
Fan violence is endemic in Brazil, with authorities and club officials historically failing to find solutions to eradicate the problem.
Less than a month into this football season, there have been several cases of violence already — a 16-year-old boy was shot to death during a scuffle between rival fan groups and police after a match; a goalkeeper was injured in his changing room by invading rival fans; supporters were ambushed by a rival group inside a subway station; fans were turned away from a match after a confrontation between fan groups and authorities outside a stadium.
The sports ministry said Brazil has about 1.5 million people linked to fan groups, so it’s important to keep track of them with a nationwide registry. All of the country’s most popular clubs have two or three organized fan groups. Many are partly financed by the clubs themselves, receiving free tickets and free trips to away games.
Authorities in the past tried to ban the most violent groups, but they kept coming back through legal loopholes.
In addition to preventing violence, the government also wants to use the registry to offer social services and educational projects focused on the fans.
A similar registry has been in place in states such as Sao Paulo, but fan violence continued to be a problem.
Hilton is expected to meet with club representatives next week to continue discussing the subject of fan violence.