UEFA president warns of hooliganism threat

UEFA president Michel Platini on Tuesday warned of a return to the "dark days" of hooliganism in Europe fired by a rise in nationalism and extremism.

Platini, speaking as he was reelected to a third term leading Europe's governing body, said governments had to stop a return to the 1980s when "hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots" in many European stadiums.

The former football star highlighted the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster in Brussels, when 39 people died. Platini played for Juventus against Liverpool in the European Cup final that day.

"Europe is seeing a rise in nationalism and extremism the like of which we have not witnessed for a very long time," Platini told UEFA's annual congress in Vienna.

"This insidious trend can also be observed in our stadiums, as football is a reflection of society. Given its popularity, our sport is a barometer for the ills of our continent. And that barometer is pointing to some worrying developments."

The problem is becoming more acute each year, Platini told a later press conference.

"Its getting worse. There is increasingly more violence, more racist acts, more homophobic acts," he said.

Crowd trouble and racist abuse have particularly hit headlines in recent months.

  • The Greek government halted the main football league for one week this year because of repeated crowd trouble and pitch invasions. The Greek Cup final between AEK Athens and Olympiakos was called off because of a pitch invasion.
  • Dynamo Kiev's Europa League game against French side Guingamp was halted for 15 minutes because of crowd trouble. The Ukrainian side had to close part of their stadium for the next round against Everton. They were also fined.
  • Feyenoord's Europa League game against Roma in Rotterdam was suspended for more than 10 minutes after a large inflatable banana was thrown on the pitch towards Roma's Ivory Coast winger Gervinho.

"In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat. And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities," Platini added.

The UEFA president said that governments had to take action "so that we can avoid reliving the dark days of a not-so-distant past — a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.

"In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past. Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago."

Platini was a key player for Juventus in the Heysel stadium where 39 mainly Juventus fans were crushed to death following trouble in the stadium.

Platini called for tougher and European wide bans on known troublemakers in stadiums.

"We need tougher stadium bans at European level and — I will say it again — the creation of a European sports police force," he said.

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Austria investigates football chief for alleged corruption

Austrian prosecutors said Wednesday they are investigating the national football federation head over a payment made at the time of the disgraced Sepp Blatter's re-election as Fifa president in 2015.

Austria investigates football chief for alleged corruption
In this 2009 image Austrian football federation president Leo Windtner (L) takes part in the presentation of Austria's then new national team football coach Dietmar "Didi" Constantini. Photo: AFP

“We are investigating because of the suspicion of breach of trust and corruption,” the public prosecution office for economic and corruption affairs (WKStA) said.

The $100,000 (€84,000) transfer was made by Fifa, the world governing body, to a project supporting young footballers in Africa at the beginning of 2015.

The patron of this project was none other than the wife of the head of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB), Leo Windtner.

According to two Austrian websites, Addendum and, the funds were approved just after Windtner had said in an interview that he supported Blatter serving another term.

The money was initially wired to the ÖFB, which returned it to Fifa, saying it was not involved in the African project. Fifa then transferred it directly to the project's account.

Windtner, 67, said on Wednesday that he would make a statement to prosecutors in the coming days and that he was “relaxed” about the probe.

“I didn't give Blatter any promise or undertaking,” Windtner said. “Everything was transparent and every cent accounted for. I have nothing to reproach myself for.”

He conceded that the money was at first wrongly transferred to the ÖFB and not to the African project, “but that was no fault of mine”.

In the end, the ÖFB supported Blatter's rival for the Fifa presidency, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

Blatter won re-election but amid swirling corruption allegations the Swiss was later banned from soccer for making an improper payment to then-Uefa chief Michel Platini.