A positive football culture overshadowed

Darkness for 89 minutes. Nobody touches you, nobody looks at you, nobody even thinks about you. Untill all of a sudden a hand reaches for you, grabs you and throws you down a couple of metres, right on the head of the linesman. Causing a 15 minute delay for the police to show up and a big uproar in the Swedish media.

By Casper van Es

This happened at the match Djurgarden IF – IFK Göteborg. After the fan throwed his lighter, the police had to come and stand guard between the linesman and the crowd.  After half a season of conflict free matches, it happens again. Conflicts and hooligans are still a part of Swedish football.

The Ultra's have firewroks, but act positive and sing
The Ultra’s have firewroks, but act positive and sing

Earlier that day Dan Blomberg, chairman of Djurgarden IF fanclub Jankaminerna, said that they want to stop the fans from throwing stuff on the field. “We have problems with fans throwing stuff at opponent players on the field. We try to get rid of it, but it is hard to single out individuals within 20.000 fans.”

Three major incidents with Djurgarden

Fans throwing stuff on the pitch isn’t the only problem in Sweden. Three incidents this season, all of them also connected to Djurgarden, show that Sweden has an immense problem with hooligans.

At first, there was an incident in a preseason match against German side Union Berlin. On the 25th of January the two teams played a friendly match at the Tele2 Stadium Arena in Stockholm. The match got totally out of hand with fans from both sides running on the pitch and shooting fireworks at each other.

“This was nothing like I have ever seen before in my time at Djurgarden.” Lena Gustafson commented on this. Gustafson is a supporter liaison officer for Djurgarden, her work is to create a positive environment together with the fans. “It was a major setback for the club, but there were so much circumstances for this to happen. It wasn’t anything normal.”

Then the second incident was really horrible. In the first match of the season Djurgarden played away against Helsingborg IF. Before the match, a regular Djurgarden fan got ambushed and beaten to death by a Helsingborg fan.

“He wasn’t a hooligan, he was a normal fan, it actually could have been me. I was at the same place ten minutes before him.” Blomberg reveals about the killed supporter. Gustafson went to Helsingborg with the fans. “It was the worst trip back ever, knowing we were one man short.”

The third accident happened recently. On the 31st of May Djurgarden played their last match before the summer break against Örebro SK. The Djurgarden fans were on their worst behaviour, they had fights with the police and started shouting Nazi-greetings.

British fans brought the hooligan culture

Three different accidents show that Sweden has a big problem. But this isn’t a recently developed problem. According to Blomberg the problem started in 1992. “When we held the European Championships, the English fans came. The hooligan culture was at its peak in Great-Britain back then and they started looking for fights with the Swedes. After that, Swedish fans took over their culture and started organizing in firms and organizing fights.”

In England the problem was bigger than it is now or ever has been in Sweden, but they got a hold of it. The Swedish Government tried a lot of things to stop it, but nothing worked out really well.

Club Firm name Estimated amount of hooligans
AIK Firman Boys 300
IFK Göteborg Wisemen 250-300
Djurgarden IF Djurgardens Fina Grabbar (DFG) 200-250
Hammarby Kompisgänget Bajen (KGB) 200-250
Helsingborg/FC Kobenhavn(shared firm) Frontline/CC 150-200

The biggest firms in Sweden, their members and the clubs they belong to

A mandate to have a dialogue

One project is National Coordinator Rose-Marie Frebran. She is ‘responsible for assisting the Government in its efforts to strengthen a positive fan culture and combat sports-related crime,’ as the Swedish government website says.

Frebran’s role is to strengthen dialogue between relevant actors. The hooligans, who are the problem, are not included in this dialogue. “That is no part of my assignment. I try to strengthen dialogue between people who are open for a positive supporter culture. I am here to listen, learn and to support clubs, municipalities and police.”

Criticism from the club

Not everybody is satisfied with Frebran’s work though. Blomberg thinks she is not the right person for the job. “She is totally unqualified. She has no idea what to do about the problem and her mandate doesn’t give her any power to change anything.”

Lena Gustafson is also not fond of the cooperation of club, police and politics. “After an incident, politicians know everything. They have a sudden solution and know what to do, while they actually know nothing.” She isn’t pleased with the police as well, she thinks they always try to blame the clubs for everything. “The contact with the police is at least a bit frosty. According to them, we don’t do enough to prevent violence, while we are working on a lot of things right now. That is frustrating.”

The police’s work

The Stockholm supporterpolisen is solely made to prevent and stop hooliganism. They are in the stadiums and monitor the risk group of fans who could get into fights. In a research paper from Anders Green from the Stockholm University their role is explained. “They monitor all supporters who could be a threat. Especially the new recruits, who seem to get younger every time.”

The supporterpolisen itself was not available for comment.

Section F, the stand where the lighter got thrown from
Section F, the stand where the lighter got thrown from

A solution for a short mandate

Frebran herself is also critical on her mandate, since it is only for 15 months until December 2014. “My mandate is not long enough to make a change. The work to strengthen positive culture among supporters and preventing crime and violence in connection to sport events must be something going on for longer term than that.”

Frebran does see a solution to this, since she is not the only actor in this discussion. “Of course it can also be worked out by other people than me. They are probably more important than I am. My work is just very abstract and hard to measure.”

Accidents happen despite measures

Djurgarden IF and fanclub Jarnkaminerna are quite critical on the steps the government is taking, but their own work is also not flawless, incidents still occur in the stadium, their responsibility. “We are working on it, but we are just a board of 7 members at Jarkaminerna, we can’t stop hooliganism.”

“The whole spectre of supporters needs to realise that we need a change. Not only the violent fans. Everybody could do something wrong.” Gustafson says.

“The police however is responsible for violence in the city, and they try to blame that on us.” Gustafson continues. Blomberg adds that fighting crime is the police’s work. “They should keep the city safe.”

The report ‘Supporterkunskap’ by the supporterpolisen gives a different point of view on what the clubs do. “A new phenomenon is the that seated audience gets more involved in the hooligan culture. They call section F in DIF a ‘active seat section’. Here are also destructive fans.” This was also the section where the lighter was thrown from. When the Ultra’s are expanding around the stadium, it becomes harder to check them all.

UEFA standards in Sweden

The Swedish football association Svenskfotboll is also a side that works on stopping hooliganism. Anders Sigurdson works as the Head of Security during matches for Svenskfotboll, he says they have some good measures to stop it.

“We have a system of match security system in the Allsvenskan(highest Swedish League). We enforce the same rules as other UEFA members and we have a strong cooperation with different authorities like the prosecutor and the police. Besides that we have the ability to ban someone from stadiums for up to three years.”

Controversy about banning fans

Gustafson is really critical on the match bans as a supporter liaison officer. “When a youngster gets banned from his club, do you think he will come back in a positive way? We want him back in a positive and constructive way. You need to think a step further.”

Sigurdson does think the banning is a good step in stopping the problem, however he believes the clubs need to step up. Especially after the problems Djurgarden had against Göteborg. Not only were there lighters thrown, before the match a pyroshow from Sofialaktaren caused a 20 minute delay, because the pitch was smoke filled.

Illegal pyroshows enhance atmosphere

“The clubs need to take responsibility for what happens in their stadium. Especially when it comes to pyrotechnicues we have a big problem. Pyro is of course forbidden in the Swedish Leagues.” Sigurdson says.

Jarnkaminerna actually encourages members to organize pyroshows. “We encourage pyro amongst supporters. It is forbidden, but it enhances the atmosphere a lot.” Blomberg says on this subject.

He stands alone when it comes to this, Gustafson is against the pyroshows from the DIF-fans. “We cannot allow that. It harms the club and our name, we rather have other tifo’s than pyro.”

The hooligan problem in Sweden has a lot of different sides, with fights only being a small part of them. So far, most different actors who can solve it, point fingers at each other. Sigurdson is hopeless about the hooligans: “This is a never ending story.”

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