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Supporter cleared over hooligan battle

Paul O'Mahony · 9 Apr 2010, 11:00

Published: 09 Apr 2010 11:00 GMT+02:00

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Helsingborg District Court had found the 36-year-old guilty of assault after civilian police officers filmed the wild scenes that erupted when fans of the Hammarby and Helsingborg football teams met for a prearranged battle in the town of Åstorp on October 21st 2007.

"It's quite a common phenomenon; fights like this happen several times a year," said Hans Rudolfsson, a police officer tasked with tackling fan violence.

With Hammarby fans dressed in dark colours and Helsingborg fans in light, police were able to observe as one of the Helsingborg fans fell to the ground.

Video evidence appeared to show that the Hammarby fan aimed kicks at the prone body of the Helsingborg supporter, who in line with accepted practice denied he had been the victim of assault.

"There is a sort of gentleman's code for these arranged fights and generally the rival groups try to keep things relatively clean. You're not supposed to kick somebody when they're down, for example, or throw any objects," Rudolfsson told The Local.

"But in the heat of the moment things can get out of hand, particularly if there are people involved who are drunk, on drugs, or haven't received a grounding in the culture so to speak."

The 36-year-old was initially given a suspended sentence and fined 7,500 kronor ($1,030) by the district court. But the court of appeal overturned the original ruling, arguing that it could not be proved beyond doubt that the 36-year-old's kick had connected with the body of the Helsingborg fan.

The incident took place after a large group of Hammarby fans travelling to an away match with Trelleborg disembarked from their bus to participate in an arranged fight with Helsingborg supporters on Ji-Tegatan in Åstorp.

Hans Rudolfsson said it was common for the rival factions to set up an encounter in a small town like Åstorp.

"Often the groups will arrange to meet halfway between their respective home towns, and the fights aren't always held on a matchday. It makes sense for them to meet in a small community. If the two police officers in a village turn up they're not going to be able to do much about a fight involving hundreds of people," said Rudolfsson.

The Stockholm-based officer added that police had noted a form of stratification in hooligan circles.

"There's a Sweden scene, involving groups from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Skåne, and then there's the alternative scene, which might involve, say, hockey supporters from Linköping taking on football supporters from Norrköping."

Rudolfsson said the number of people involved varied greatly.

Story continues below…

"There can be as many as 150 from each side. But often they'll agree to have maybe ten representatives each. Perhaps it seems strange but the groups have good contact with each other, which helps with their planning."

While clubs are often powerless to take action when supporters organise fights away from a matchday arena, prosecutors have been granted the authority to issue barring orders ever since a new law came into force in 2005.

"It doesn't happen often but last year three fans from Örebro were barred from attending matches," said Rudolfsson.

A ban under the 2005 law means a nine-month prohibition from attending all first and second division games, as well as matches involving the Swedish national team, and may be extended by a year on review.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

12:30 April 9, 2010 by Audrian
It is good to hear that Swedish fans have code of conduct when they fight; they have not yet turned to be nasty, hooligans.

They are probably a bunch of guys with lots of energy and unexpressed anger. The solution is not more policing and more prisons. This is an American style and it has failed!

Sweden should create places where the young spend free time without the constraint of money. Most schools in Stockholm do not have appropriate ground for playing football, basketball, tennis, volleyball and the like. Probably they do not also have facilities for doing physical exercises, free of charge, e.g., boxing, judo, karate, dancing and athletics. If the city does not have land that can be used for this purpose it should bus students to open places outside the city.
13:19 April 9, 2010 by justanotherexpat
The next time some gimp makes a joke at me about English footie hooligans I am going to remind them of this story, amongst others.
14:21 April 9, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Maybe some of these "Tuff Guys" should try their hand at Rugby. Too much discipline, I am sure. If you can't do it on the Pitch, stay in the stands....
14:32 April 9, 2010 by texasgubbar
Trying to prove your superiority thru violence... how american. What I cant understand is, if team A's group of thugs beats up team B's group of thugs, but team B still wins the championship, then team A and their group of thugs still suck.

I suppose its groups of limp dick losers who cant get women and must dissipate their testasterone by other methods.

As far as English hooligans, I have been to several EPL games and they were not to be seen, the crowds and atmosphere is fantastic.
14:50 April 9, 2010 by Greg in Canada
Hmmmmm. Maybe they should encourage fighting among the players rather than the fans. Consider NHL hockey. Lots of fighting among the players on the ice but you never hear of fighting among the fans.
15:05 April 9, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
I went to a fight, and a Hockey match broke out.. Olde Joke...

Fighting in the NHL has its place. Keeps offending players from taking "cheap-shots". Players understand that there is a price to pay other than penalty minutes. Teams often employ "Enforcers".

@Texasgubbar: Americans tend not ot start fights, mostly, they are not afraid to finish them...
22:58 April 9, 2010 by GLO
Thankyou...PD...I guess a GIRLS sport can be frustrating for city BOYS....
07:16 April 10, 2010 by Midnightpromises
Another example of a twisted American cultural custom that has once again been mindlessly imported and immitated.
02:42 April 11, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Midnightpromises, there are no fotbol hooligans in American. Why? Soccer fans in America understand Sports and the role sports play in Society. Obviously these "local" sports fans are lacking any moral structure. The twisted cultural custom you speak of, is entirely "Home Grown".
14:28 April 11, 2010 by homestead
@Midnightpromises : "Another example of a twisted American cultural custom that has once again been mindlessly imported and immitated. "

Just out of curiosity, where exactly did you get the idea that this was an American cultural custom?
09:12 April 12, 2010 by americanska
Audrian - The things you speak of. you know, sports facilities in schools. That is also #American style". But i won't run away from the fact that we believe in law enforcement. It's a shame your anti American tunnel vision doesn't allow you to see the truth about things.

I don't understand you europeans and how your supporters always fight about sports. Is that why soccer is less popular in the US? Because thats the only way to make it interesting?
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