PM will cancel soccer season if violence continues

Netanyahu demands that the sport be returned to the Israelis; police, sports minister draw up plan to save game.

Soccer fight 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Soccer fight 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Reverberations from the scenes of brutal violence on the soccer field last week continued to be felt on Sunday, as the country’s leaders and police vowed to stamp out the problem and even threatened to cancel the soccer season if they did not succeed.
“We must stop the violence on the soccer pitch,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, adding that if there will be violence, there will not be any soccer.
Netanyahu spoke one day after all games were canceled, following a brawl at a Second Division game between Bnei Lod and Hapoel Ramat Gan, which resulted in the arrests of Bnei Lod’s manager and deputy manager.
“We do not want to see kicking, and fisticuffs, and brawling, we want to see soccer,” Netanyahu said, giving backing to the steps that Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said she would would take to stamp out the violence.
The violence must be uprooted, he said, “to return the game to the Israelis, myself included, who love it very much.”
Meanwhile, Police Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino and Livnat agreed on a plan to prioritize violent offenses in soccer games, which will include stricter punishment to create greater deterrence.
Danino said police would immediately dedicate more resources to soccer stadiums, take up a more stringent policy towards offenders and work for closer cooperation with prosecutors and courts.
“The field has turned into a battlefield, involving not just fans, but players, coaches and professionals,” Livnat added. She accused the management of the Israel Football Association of remaining silent on the crisis.
The Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee will hold an emergency meeting during the spring recess on Tuesday, to discuss soccerrelated violence and the Israel Football Association.
Also on Sunday, police decided to press charges against 11 Hapoel Tel Aviv fans for rioting at the end of a game last month in Jaffa’s Bloomfield Stadium.
The fans threw objects at police and players, and police have used video evidence to back up the charges. Police will seek suspended sentences and restraining orders keeping the fans away from fields, including obligating the fans to report to a police station before every game involving their team.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.