Jun 15, 2016

    2018 World Cup gets black eye from Russian hooligans


    RAMPAGING football fans have opened up a new sporting crisis for Russia as it battles doping scandals and doubts about the World Cup that it will host in two years.

    Sanctions that Uefa is considering against Russia over pitched fights, racist chants and fireworks hurled around the European Championship game against England have been a new blow to Russia's reputation.

    Images of fans preparing for battle with gumshields and batons and charging through Marseille's old town with chairs over their heads have gone around the world.

    Uefa have threatened England and Russia with disqualification from Euro 2016, if there is a repeat of the unrest.

    Only Russia face formal charges, however.

    Europe's governing body was to have announced a first punishment yesterday.

    Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutkois already struggling with international enquiries into doping in Russian athletics and other sports.

    The International Association of Athletics Federations is to decide on Friday whether to readmit Russia into international competition so it can take part in the Rio Olympics in August.

    Swiss prosecutors are also still probing how Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup as part of their look at Fifa's affairs.

    Mr Mutko knows he has a job on his hands to convince the football world that all will be well in 2018.

    However, some Russian fans and officials have indicated they do not care what foreign bodies do or think.

    Igor Lebedev, a member of the Russian Football Union executive and a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament, said on Twitter: "I don't see anything wrong with fans fighting.

    "Quite the opposite, the guys did well. Keep it up!"

    Hooliganism experts in Europe have worries about the World Cup.

    John Williams, a sociology professor and expert on hooliganism at Leicester University in England, said the lack of control on access to match tickets in Russia was a serious problem in its fight with hardcore troublemakers.

    But he said there would be fewer foreign visitors in Russia in 2018 than at Euro 2016.

    "'Selling' the World Cup in Russia now to visiting supporters, without concerted home action, may be increasingly difficult," he added.