Russian politician suggests making fights between football hooligans a spectator sport

Russian politician suggests making fights between football hooligans a spectator sport

A Russian politician has proposed legalising fights between football hooligans and making it a spectator sport ahead of next year’s World Cup in the country.

Last year’s European Championships in France were marred by violence between Russian and English supporters on the streets of Marseille. However, this inspired Igor Lebedev – the deputy speaker of Russia’s parliament – to draw up rules for “draka”, the Russian word for “fight”.

Russian fans fighting
Did Russian fans just need a legal outlet? (Nick Potts/PA)

The organised brawls would see 20-strong teams fight unarmed in an arena, and could turn fans’ aggression “in a peaceful direction” whilst also attracting thousands of spectators, claims Lebedev. Some fan groups in Russia already hold fights along similar lines, typically pre-arranged mass brawls in rural locations, away from police.

Lebedev hailed the violence in Marseille last year, telling Russian fans: “Well done lads, keep it up!” On the nationalist LDPR party’s website he claimed the organised brawls he has devised would serve as an “example” for English fans, who he characterised as undisciplined louts and poor fighters.

Football fans of differing nationalities and innocent bystanders try to escape tear gas
French police used tear gas on hooligans last year (Niall Carson/PA)

“Russia would be a pioneer in a new sport,” said Lebedev. “English fans arrive, for example, and start picking fights. And they get the answer — challenge accepted. A meeting in a stadium at a set time.”

The Russians’ proposals have received some attention online – with former England striker Gary Lineker asking on his Twitter page: “WTF? Is he insane?”.

Despite his enthusiasm for football violence, Lebedev has insisted Russian policing means foreign fans won’t be in danger at Russia 2018.

“We’ve taken all the safety measures, modernised legislation,” he said. “Not a single tourist has any reason to fear travelling to our country in the summer of 2018.”