Controversial Russian politician Igor Lebedev has proposed legalizing hooliganism and turning it into a sport in a bid to curb the country’s problems with football-related violence.
Lebedev, who congratulated Russian fans for their violent attacks on England supporters in Marseille during last year’s European Championships in France, has outlined a series of rules in his bizarre plans.
The Russian Football Union (RFU) Board member claims organized brawls among football fans “could turn fans’ aggression in a peaceful direction”.
Under his proposals, designed under what he describes as “draka”, the Russian word for fight, 20 unarmed fans would line each side of an arena.
It would involve a “meeting at a stadium at a set time” and would be watched by thousands.
“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 threat of hooliganism at the 2018 World Cup has been prominent in the build-up to the competition following numerous clashes between rival supporters during the 2016 European Championships.
The violent scenes between Russian and England supporters left one England fan, Andrew Bache, in a coma after he was attacked with iron bars.
A BBC documentary also raised further concerns as footage was shown of Russians being trained as combat fighters to ensure they were in the best possible condition.
One Russian fan said there was a “100 per cent” guarantee of trouble at the World Cup in Russia in 2018 during the programme.
The film also showed Russian groups conducting per-arranged fights, including trials seeking recruits for hooligan firms, in remote locations across the country.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov played down concerns, claiming hooligans will not be permitted entry to stadiums at the tournament as they will be rooted out by “fan passports”.
“There exists a fan passport, so those who have been banned from visiting stadiums, will not be allowed to see the matches,” he said.
Lebedev, who tweeted “well done lads, keep it up” in reference to Russian fans’ attacks on England supporters in France, also addressed concerns over hooliganism at next year’s tournament, insisting “not a single tourist has any reason to fear travelling to our country in the summer of 2018”.