The House on Wednesday passed a long-awaited bill to prevent violence at football matches by enforcing strict penalties on offenders.
All parties, with the exception of opposition Akel, voted in favour of the bill.
Among other things the new legislation aims to tackle hooligan anonymity through the introduction of a fan card which comes into effect on January 1, 2015. Football supporters will be required to present the card before purchasing a ticket.
Addressing concerns that the bill was rushed through, Chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee Soteris Sampson said the legislation was studied in depth for an adequate period of time before being put to the vote.
“It is the opinion of everyone here today that violence at matches must no longer be tolerated. It is time for the state to take measures against these groups of troublemakers that terrorise society.”
Sampson called on the government to soon submit another bill to parliament addressing sport violence that occurs outside of stadiums.
Green Party MP George Perdikis said the previous government failed to address the hooligan menace, blaming the lack of pro-activity on political party links to club supporters groups.
“Hooliganism is essentially the result of negative behaviour from a small group of the population that are now faced with serious penalties if they continue to break the law.”
Akel MP Aristos Damianou expressed his party’s opinion that the bill was rushed through and voice concern over fans reactions to the strict regulations it enforces.
“Based on the results of thousands of studies on this issue we know that enforcing harsh penalties in stadiums that are visited by thousands of fans can have negative results.”
He added that each time governments have used a hard-line approach to combat violent behaviour the results have been the opposite of what was intended.
“Unfortunately this bill has been approved without any social dialogue having first taken place. There are many asphyxiating deadlines to meet and five first division clubs have expressed they cannot afford to implement many of the security measures stipulated in the bill.”
Diko MP Antonis Antoniou said it is common knowledge that the escalating violent behaviour of hooligans at matches is a threat to society.
“We let the problem escalate until it became out of hand thus requiring harsh measures to combat it.”
Minister of Justice Ioanas Nicolaou said he was displeased with some of the amendments made to the bill by MPs, adding that he is awaiting a copy of the final bill draft for examination.
Nicolaou expressed confidence that the law will help increase safety at matches following a number of violent incidents this year that brought shame to football on the island as well as wider society.
The bill provides stadium bans of up to 10 years for troublemakers, harsher prison sentences as well as stringent seating regulations and more effective stewarding. The responsibility for handling the fan card database has been taken on by the Cyprus Sports Organisation.
Following a last-minute amendment to the bill football clubs will not be covering the cost of additional policing at matches.