x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

FA 'overreacting' to incidents, say club officials

Al Ahli want fans who are responsible for trouble punished.

Paul Oberjuerge

Minor indiscretions by supporters have been met by unduly harsh punishment by the Football Association disciplinary committee, two Pro League executives say.

In the past month, Al Ahli and Al Ain were each jolted by the loss of two home matches, and Al Wahda were fined Dh20,000 this season for what an official described as "a plastic cup of water dropped on the pitch".

"The disciplinary committee is very strict, and I think they are overreacting to some incidents," said Khaled Awadh, the deputy chief executive of Wahda. "A fine of Dh20,000 is a big thing for a cup of water dropping to the ground."

"The fan should be punished, and not the club," said Ahmad Khalifa Hammad, the chief executive of Ahli. "We cannot control what every fan does. Naughty fans is a matter for police and for security.

"Identify the fan, don't punish the club by moving away two home games. All that will happen is that the same fan will see the games in this new location."

Carlo Nohra, the chief executive of the Pro League, said bad behaviour among fans is not a significant or growing issue in the UAE. "These were two isolated cases," he said of the Al Ain and Ahli match bans.

Ahli were punished by the loss of two home games after their fans threw water bottles at visiting Al Ain supporters during a match on May 8. Al Ain were hit by a similar penalty when fans "verbally abused" an Al Wasl player on May 20.

Ahli have served one game of their two-game ban, and the second will be assessed on their first home match of next season. Al Ain's punishment will be meted out at their first two home matches next season, meaning they will have only nine league matches at their home ground.

"In some of these cases it is fans sitting and saying, 'The referee is bad.' They talk only," Awadh said. "And the match commissioner hears it and writes it in his report and the clubs are punished. I don't think this is right."

The two club executives agree that significant misbehaviour among supporters should be met with stern discipline.

"When fans come on the pitch and start hitting or fighting, I agree, it calls for serious punishment," Awadh said. "But we are seeing times when a small issue is turned into a big punishment."

Nohra said verbal abuse merits punishment.

"It is unacceptable for any fan to insult a player or a referee as it is a poor reflection on the league and impacts the enjoyment of other spectators and therefore I support all measures that are put in place to ensure this type of behaviour is stopped," he said. The most serious incident in recent years involving Pro League sides came during a Gulf Club Cup match in April 2010, when a dozen Wasl fans came on to the pitch, and at least one attempted to strike an Al Nasr team official.

All Pro League games are played with a significant police and security presence. Nohra said the police decide on the "risk rating" of each match and assign personnel accordingly. Video cameras are used to record the actions of fans.

All three officials agreed that fan behaviour here does not reach the levels seen in other countries.

"It's not like it is in Europe, where fans may damage the stadium, damage everything," Awadh said. "Here, it is a few guys talking about something."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae