Are football clubs responsible for the behaviour and actions of their fans?
In recent days and weeks, there have been numerous instances where fans behaved incorrectly, were part of vandalism and acts of racism; all which is unwanted and uncalled for in football. But one has to ask the question if the concerned football clubs are at fault or rather the society at large.
The appalling act of racism by Chelsea FC fans in Paris last week, where an amateur video shot at Paris's Richelieu-Drouot station showed a black man being denied entry into a Metro train compartment while a group of Chelsea fans chanted: "We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it!"
The instance could only be made public due to the fact that a video of the incidence was recorded by someone and put online. Chelsea as a club has said it will ban the five suspended fans from attending Stamford Bridge for life if there is sufficient evidence of their involvement. Further a club spokesman had said the club was writing to the victim to "apologise unreservedly" while manager Jose Mourinho has said he is "ashamed" by the alleged racism.
The second instance is of fan violence is the Rhine derby between Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga were Cologne fans missed the carnival period to dress-up and burn fireworks before storming the pitch towards the end of the match.
The club from Cologne reacted by first distancing themselves from a specific fan group and then banning the outfit, who are part of the Ultra fan scene at FC Cologne and even went to the extent of posting images of those involved in the violence for the investigating police to be in a better position to identify them.
Most fans agree with the fans of the club, but some in Cologne and across Germany believe it was a too drastic step.
My third and final example is the fan violence in Rome and then Rotterdam around the UEFA Europa League matches of AS Roma and Dutch side Feyenoord Rotterdam.
Feyenoord fans are known to be amongst the bad boys of European club football, they have had many a battles with especially Ajax Amsterdam in the Netherlands, but their level of violence and destruction in Rome and then even at home is very worrying as they not only disrupt matches but also endanger city centres and lives of the general public.
In the end the question remains, are the Football Clubs responsible for their fans behaviour & actions?
I think and believe, yes and no. Surely clubs need to act and distance themselves from such acts and fans, but they simply can't get rid of such elements and not have them as supporters.
All the above clubs have and are taking corrective measures but often they don't seem to be enough as clubs are not really willing to take on the Ultra fan groups as some happen to be in-charge of the atmosphere at the home grounds or create lovely fan choreographies. It is a give and take, some try to test the boundaries and happen to cross them.
It is a very tricky issue, which cannot be easily solved and once in a while it shows its ugly head.