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Bring back ID cards for troubled football clubs

Pre-match screening would go a long way in tackling hooliganism

Gulf News

Dubai: It’s ironic that, having just reflected upon the failed government policy of identity cards to combat football hooliganism in the 1980s in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death last week, we should see a return to such trouble at the weekend.

Images of Millwall fans fighting one another at their Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic on Saturday were screened alongside clashes between Newcastle and Sunderland supporters the following day.

Such incidents make headlines thankfully due to their rarity in the modern game, and there’s simply no equating the events of last weekend to those of the 1970s and 80s. However, that doesn’t justify the actions of a minority, and action should still be taken in order to avoid a gradual slip back into the dark ages.

If the likes of Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers can have points deducted, or even be demoted three tiers, on grounds of financial mismanagement, clubs notorious for their unsavoury support networks should receive similar sanctions.

It must be noted that Millwall’s average home attendance is 10,000 and that they were still allocated 30,000 tickets at Wembley. Fair-weather fans may have been among the few that ruined the day for them. But it’s ultimately up to Millwall, a club renowned for its rogue elements, to vet who they are selling their tickets to.

While the abandoned nationwide identity card scheme for football fans seemed a little laborious, honing in on a similar method for select troubled clubs wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Pre-season applications for season tickets or loyalty cards could be cross-checked with the local police and people with any previous infringements relating to football violence should render them persona non grata.

A big day out to Wembley will, of course, raise newfound interest, but regardless of a club’s potential gate, only those holding identity cards should be allowed to buy tickets with a credit card in their name to be shown at the gate to prove passes are not being re-distributed.

It’s quite simple: Clubs should forego chasing a fast buck and take responsibility for who is representing them and the punishment should be so severe for wayward clubs that they are forced to finally act against their thugs.