Try­ing to beat the trou­ble­mak­ers

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

LE­GIA War­saw earned the sym­pa­thy of much of Europe early this sea­son after an ad­min­is­tra­tion over­sight saw them lose their Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing place to a Celtic side which they had just ham­mered 6-1.

But with the ac­tions of a hand­ful of sup­port­ers dur­ing a Novem­ber Europa League clash in Bel­gium, any sym­pa­thy that the Pol­ish cham­pi­ons had may have been lost just as quickly.

Small sec­tions of the trav­el­ling Pol­ish support caused a tem­po­rary halt to their group stage de­feat at Lok­eren after they hurled racist abuse at op­po­si­tion keeper Boubacar Barry, be­fore clash­ing with po­lice and caus­ing dam­age to their hosts’ sta­dium.

For the ac­tions of a mi­nor­ity, Le­gia were heav­ily pun­ished: as well as be­ing slapped with a heavy fine, the club were forced to close their sta­dium for their group stage vic­tory against Trab­zon­spor.

The same con­di­tion ap­plies to the home leg of Fe­bru­ary’s knock-out tie against Ajax, while fans have been banned from trav­el­ling to all away games in the com­pe­ti­tion for the rest of the sea­son.

It isn’t the first time that the Le­gia sup­port­ers have in­curred the wrath of UEFA, ex­plain­ing the sever­ity of the pun­ish­ment.

In 2007, the club were booted out of Europe for two sea­sons after hooli­gans stormed the pitch of Lithua­nian side Ve­tra Vilnius dur­ing an In­ter­toto Cup game.

When they even­tu­ally qual­i­fied for the Europa League four years later, nu­mer­ous in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing the dis­play of a large banner read­ing ‘Ji­had Le­gia’ in Ara­bic script when Is­raeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv vis­ited, earned over € 187,000 in fines.

De­spite only play­ing six Europa League qual­i­fy­ing games, that amount was sur­passed in 2012/13 as Le­gia amassed penal­ties of

€ 198,000 after trips to Latvia, Aus­tria and Norway; mostly for the use of flares and de­struc­tion of prop­erty.

Last year was no bet­ter: al­leged racism and the use of py­rotech­nics dur­ing both qual­i­fy­ing games against Welsh cham­pi­ons TNS earned a

€ 30,000 fine and forced the clo­sure of Le­gia’s north stand for their play-off tie with Steaua Bucharest.

De­spite the pun­ish­ment, the club’s har­dened sup­port­ers merely moved to the south stand, where more py­rotech­nics and anti-UEFA ban­ners went on dis­play. UEFA handed Le­gia a whop­ping € 150,000 penalty and forced them to play one Europa League group stage game be­hind closed doors.

Fur­ther pun­ish­ments were dished out do­mes­ti­cally; most no­tably after hooli­gans broke into the away sec­tion dur­ing a league game against Jagiel­lonia Bi­ałys­tok, forc­ing the aban­don­ment of the game. In ad­di­tion to for­feit­ing the game, Le­gia were fined € 24,000, handed a one-game sta­dium clo­sure and a six­month ban on fans trav­el­ling to away games.

Le­gia’s lat­est charge amounts to a hefty € 105,000. How­ever, the to­tal cost to the club is sig­nif­i­cantly higher. With the loss of ticket sales and match­day in­come in­cluded, the fig­ure is es­ti­mated to be around € 750,000; while over the last 12 months, it has been guessed at some­where be­tween two and twoand-a-half mil­lion Euros has been lost – ap­prox­i­mately ten per cent of the club’s yearly bud­get.

With such a dent to the club’s cof­fers, owner Bo­gusław Leśn­odor­ski broke his si­lence on the mat­ter to call for a change in at­ti­tudes.

“As you can see, the con­se­quences of in­di­vid­u­als’ ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour can be very large,” he stated in an in­ter­view with Pol­ish ra­dio. “I do not un­der­stand the rea­son­ing of those peo­ple, and do not know how any­one can be­lieve that harm­ing their club is good. Stu­pid­ity can­not be an ex­cuse.

“It seems to me that a good way to re­act is an at­tempt to hold ac­count­able those re­spon­si­ble in a civil way. I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that a fi­nan­cial ar­gu­ment of­ten works. Claim­ing com­pen­sa­tion from in­di­vid­u­als could be a good way for­ward for us.”

Com­ment­ing in news­pa­per Gazeta Wy­bor­cza, lawyer Jacek Ma­siota stated he could not re­call a sim­i­lar case.

“Some­times the fan as­so­ci­a­tions agree with the clubs that they will pay the penal­ties for their ac­tions; but I do not re­call the re­quest for com­pen­sa­tion for tak­ing part in brawls at the sta­dium, or for racist chant­ing.

“You [would] have to go through lots of ev­i­dence. In the case of iden­ti­fy­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of racist chant­ing, it is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult; while in the case of da­m­ages, you need pre­cise proof that a par­tic­u­lar per­son has caused dam­age.”

While the club is now in pos­ses­sion of video footage from Lok­eren’s Dak­nam­sta­dion, lim­i­ta­tions to its cov­er­age en­sure it will be almost im­pos­si­ble to trace the source of the of­fend­ing chants. Leśn­odor­ski has also ad­mit­ted that they are still not in pos­ses­sion of the names of those who had been ar­rested in Bel­gium – many of whom had trav­elled sep­a­rately to the of­fi­cial groups.

In re­cent years Le­gia have adopted a much more pro­fes­sional ap­proach to run­ning the club, while im­prov­ing mas­sively on-the-field; yet the trou­ble­mak­ers’ ac­tions still hold them back. If they can find a way to erad­i­cate this fi­nal prob­lem, they could be well on their way to dom­i­nat­ing in Poland for years to come.

Le­gia ul­tras light up the sta­dium

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