KPL- Just how strong are the new anti-hooliganism laws?

For all the cries, the tears, the tribulations and the fears hooliganism has brought with it- a sudden glimpse of hope seems to have risen over this year’s yet to be kicked off league. In a special session, the Governing Council (holed up somewhere in Naivasha) made a few good decisions, greatest of them all are rules meant to fight hooliganism.

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Ladies and gentlemen, before I do give a list of the new rules- kindly note that for the next five years, a strategic plan with the theme “Football is Family” has been adopted to help strengthen the Premier League and its operations.

  • The Clubs are responsible for the conduct of their members and supporters and must ensure they behave in a fair manner and refrain from violent, threatening, abusive, obscene and other pro-vocative and unsporting conduct or language at a match.
    • Approved the docking of points from the League standings by the Independent Disciplinary and Complaints Committee (IDCC) for any club found culpable of causing an abandonment of matches due to acts of hooliganism and crowd trouble.
    • Engaging the higher security organs in the country with an aim of rooting out the vice.
    • Proposed that a Special Unit be formed for public events and must be trained on safety and security.
    • No tear gas will be allowed inside the stadium.
    • Debris and projectiles within the stadium must be removed and no bottles will be allowed inside the stadium.
    • Perpetrators must be arrested and charged in a Court of Law.
    • The League and Clubs must engage, educate and train their fans
    • The need for a motion to be tabled in Parliament to address and advocate the penalty on hooligans.
    • A two-year stadium ban for those found guilty from attending  any football match for a first offender and a life ban for a second offender
    • Players and coaches must be educated and must refrain from taunting the fans during celebrations.
    • Installation of CCTV cameras in the stadiums.
    • Appointment of a safety and security officer for all clubs.
    • All match marshals and stewards must register with the League and must obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct from the Government.
    • Improvement of the gate management and ticketing in the League.
    • Start a communication campaign for behavioural change for our fans and start a fan registration process.

Again it must be noted that for the first time with proper will- hooliganism can be a thing of the past in Kenyan Football. While I must point out that a few of these rules and suggestions are facts that were already mentioned in the past, a second trial following a different non-political approach might yield better results.

In the G4S Stadia Safety report, a mention of CCTV installation in every stadium was recommended, three years later- another suggestion of the sort comes up. With minimal improvement in the already existing stadia, it’s hard to see how this will be implemented. Well, with a proper CCTV Surveillance installed, catching a few faces getting naughty won’t be a hard affair. Prosecution (I’m not really sure) would be much smoother as the evidence will be right there.

Ticketing and Match marshals has been an area if not laughable then horribly annoying would be the better way to describe it. It’s hard to imagine match marshals employed by a club stealing from the same club. Having been hard to sometimes trust the ticket sellers with the money, clubs have often opted for the cheaper way of getting the stewards do the job for them. Besides, except for matches that draw huge crowds- clubs often relax their security detail.

Mr Hassan Wario, if I ever got it right- in his speech last year at the KPL Awards GALA noted with lots of concern that football just has to sort its own mess. A special force to deal with football hooliganism would be hard to constitute. It’s good though that the Governing Council noted the non-capacity of the police to sometimes deal with crowds- forcing the police not to use tear gas during crowd control must be a welcome idea by some fans, what the police will use though in its place is something we shall all wait to see.

Lastly, while docking of points is the surest way of punishing a team whose fans cause havoc and fear- clubs must also have a mechanism of training their fans and controlling their players. (Players might always get carried away after constant fan taunts- the line needs to be drawn sporting and unsporting conducts.) With no proper definition of number of points or how points shall be deducted depending on the offense (e.g pitch invasion, post-match player harassment, organized gang raids/punch ups), it opens up a whole world of dishonesty and trickery in the docking of points. Such inconsistencies coupled by personal vendettas might be the only speck to such an eye-opening hooliganism control mechanism. (Fan registration might never kick off immediately and not everyone who gets a match day ticket is a fan- opposing fans might use this to earn their team points)

According to whatever way you look at each of the above rules, the custodians of the law remain the federation and in this case the Kenya Premier League. Not forgetting incidences in the past, the question remains, how effective are the laws and for some, how workable? For the IDCC, the work load is greatly increased- but for that much work, how sharp are its teeth?

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