Members of Parliament have called on all stakeholders of football to come together to fight against hooliganism to uphold the values enshrined in the game.
In a statement, Mr Kobena Mensah Woyome, Ranking Member on the Committee of Youth, Sports and Culture and MP for South Tongu Constituency suggested a private member’s bill to address football offences.
“I, therefore, suggest that, there should be a private member’s bill to address Football Offences and Disorder, Safety of Sports Grounds, Sporting Events - Control of Alcohol etc to keep hooligans far from the game we all love to watch and away from corrupting the game that has tirelessly united us and enabled us to pursue national development,” the Ranking Member advocated.
The statement, titles “Spate of Hooliganism in Football in the Country”, noted that “it is disheartening to wake up in the morning to hear that a sporting official or football lover has sustained injuries because of doing what he loves at the stadium.”
It added: “It is about time this issue is addressed once and for all, given the fact that we all agree on the role of football in uniting us and promoting productivity for national development.
Mr. Woyome noted that football, like any other sport provides economic benefits for nations and individuals, fosters unity among nations, and deals a lethal blow to the things that divide people along racial, gender, and in particular ethnic lines.
The South Tongu Constituency Legislator identified actions such as vandalism, brawling, and intimidation are enacted by association football club fans participating in football.
It occurs at different levels and sometimes involves football players who are to show sportsmanship.
“It is interesting to note that in some instances, Mr. Speaker, hooliganism occur even outside sports stadia. This could be that even off the pitch, the lives of others as well as their properties can be in danger. It is this reason most especially Mr. Speaker that makes hooliganism a delicate issue which requires every amount of effort that can be built to fight it,” Mr. Woyome said.
He added: “Mr. Speaker, football hooliganism has a long history. It dates as far back as the 1880s where instances of football hooliganism were recorded in England.
“It was a period where gangs of supporters would intimidate neighborhoods, in addition to attacking referees, opposing supporters and players. However, in the era of globalisation, Mr. Speaker, I expect if not completely eliminated it should not be at the rate that we are witnessing.
The Ranking Member noted that at the international level, issues relating to hooliganism are regarded as a threat to life and tackled with all seriousness. The police and other security agencies have been introduced to the game of football to control crowds by ensuring that their presence in stadia is felt by fans.
He described football hooliganism is a global problem although the United Kingdom has drastically reduced its occurrence because of measures put in place.
He recalled the May 9, 2001 Accra Sports Stadium disaster when Accra Hearts of Oak hosted Kumasi Asante Kotoko in a premier league game.
“This single incident Mr. Speaker, on this gruesome day led to the death of 127 people which remains the worst stadium disaster in African history hereinafter dubbed the “Black Wednesday,” the MP said.
Noting another incident on 28th April 2019, the South Tongu MP recalled fans being beaten in a women’s special competition in Sunyani who were aggrieved at the lack of added time like they expected; the match between Asante Kotoko and Brekum Chelsea also recorded violence on 28th April, 2019; with the very recent violence between Brong Ahafo United FC and Real Tamale United FC at Sunyani Coronation Park during the division One League on 4th July, 2021.
The MP noted that research has indicated that occurrences of hooliganism have been influenced by alcohol, peer pressure, player behaviour, unexpected results, referees’ judgment, gambling and many others.
He noted the effects to include loss of lives, damage to properties, injuries that renders victims disabled, loss of interest in the game which drastically reduces revenue derived from sporting events.
They called for tougher punishments such as banning perpetrators for life and where necessary, long-term imprisonments and hefty fines to serve as a deterrent to others.
Contributions from Mr Kwasi Ameyaw Cheremeh, MP for Sunyani East; Mr John Oti Bless, MP for Nkwanta North; Mr. Ahmed, First Deputy Minority Chief Whip; and Mr. Frank Annoh-Dompreh, called for measures to deal with football hooliganism to maintain the beauty of the game.