Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Lawmaker Sees Football Hooliganism As Spectator Sport

Igor Lebedev: "They're not hooligans."

A Russian lawmaker says football hooliganism should become a spectator sport, with fans squaring off against each other in an arena.

Igor Lebedev, a member of the State Duma and on the board of the Russian Football Union (RFU), suggested hooliganism could be organized as team competition -- naming it "draka," Russian for "fight."

"If visiting fans, for example, begin picking fights, they receive an answer -- your challenge's accepted. Let's meet at the stadium at the set time. You can acquaint yourselves with the rules on our site," Lebedev wrote on his nationalist LDPR party website on March 5.

The lawmaker’s comments come ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup football tournament scheduled to be held in Russia at 12 sites in 11 cities.

Lebedev defended Russian fans who fought battles, mainly with U.K. fans, at last year's European championships in France, saying they are the victims of bad press.

"They're not hooligans," he added. "First of all, they cordially support their clubs.

"Yes, sometimes they fight, but only against the other fans. They never touch the civilian population.”

Lebedev said his competition would feature 20 fighters on each side, battling unarmed in an arena.

A BBC documentary last month, called Russia's Hooligan Army, showed Russian fans predicting pitched battles between teams' supporters at the World Cup.

Russian authorities criticized the broadcast and gave security guarantees for the games.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP