Germany threatens to ban fans from stadiums

February 12, 2007

BERLIN -- Soccer federation and police officials warned clubs Monday of increased security measures to handle fan violence, including the possibility of playing in empty stadiums.

"A situation like Italy can't be tolerated here," said Konrad Freiberg, the head of the national police union.

Hundreds of fans of FC Lokomotive Leipzig attacked 300 police officers after FC Erzgebirge Aue II beat their team 3-0 Saturday in the eastern state of Saxony. Police said 36 officers and six fans were injured, while 21 police vehicles were vandalized.

Federation and soccer officials from Saxony will meet Tuesday to consider canceling all matches in the state next weekend.

Federation president Theo Zwanziger said Germany could follow Italy's lead and order teams with violent fans to play in empty stadiums.

Germany has seen a surge in stadium violence since hosting the largely peaceful World Cup last year. Several of the worst incidents have been instigated by fans of teams from Saxony.

Zwanziger threatened a permanent stop to all soccer matches at stadiums in troubled areas of Saxony.

"If we can't stop the violence in the end, despite all our efforts, then we can't allow football to be played there anymore," Zwanziger said.

In Italy, rioting at a Feb. 2 match between Catania and Palermo led to the death of a police officer and 100 people injured. All professional soccer games were then suspended for a week.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press