The fans’ behavior classified as racist by FIFA meant a 1+1 closed-door match penalty and a heavy fine for the Hungarian Federation (Photo: Miklós Szabó)

 

Trouble in London, the Puskás Arena, and at the European Championship. Soon, a Hungarian national team match is not going to pass without having to watch the news afterward about the sanctions imposed by the European Football Association (UEFA) and the International Football Association (FIFA). The penalties are almost unrealistic. UEFA imposed 2+1 closed-door matches and €100,000 in fines in July, and FIFA charged the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) with 200,000 Swiss francs and ordered 1+1 closed-door matches in September for fans' discriminatory and racist behavior. The atrocity in London on Tuesday – Hungarian and Polish fans fought with the local security personnel – will surely have consequences, too.

FIFA is investigating the disruption in London and will decide on the possible penalties; it is not worth predicting now,” MLSZ spokesman Jenő Sipos told our portal. “As the host of the event, basically, the English association is responsible for the disturbances, but based on the principle of strict liability, the Hungarian Federation is prosecuted for the behavior of the guest fans. There is a good chance that the investigation will be completed by the time of the match against San Marino, but it could drag on until the finals as it happened at the European Championship in England.”

Following the Hungary-England (0-4) match, several people were identified on the spot, and MLSZ banned those involved from attending football matches for two years. However, this did not prevent the fight in London. What other sanctions can be imposed on the unruly?

“Before the World Cup qualifier against England in Hungary, even though we, the players and the head coach, asked the fans to behave, there was a small minority that did not listen,” Jenő Sipos said. “Several supporters have already been identified by video recordings and other evidence, though the exact number is only known after the police procedure has completed. Those who have been found to have committed disorderly conduct will be banned from attending football events for two years, and fines from FIFA will be imposed on them in civil procedure. But that doesn't seem to be enough. In respect of the repeated penalties that are now becoming regular acts, MLSZ senses that it is not possible to overcome the current situation without cooperation and support.” 

"In addition to the banning of fans and financial damage, Hungarian football's loss of prestige on the international stage is perhaps even more significant. Regardless of the disproportionate disciplinary decisions and the unfair international reception, we will continue to fight until the end of the qualifiers to keep inappropriate disruptors and behavior away from stadiums. To do this, we ask for the fans' collaboration. The Federation admits that it is not so easy to eliminate and exclude these behaviors as an organizer, only if the fans visiting the match think the same way. So, it is not about MLSZ's task only, but a common concern, which includes making the rules of participation stricter, outcasting the disruptors who do not belong to us, appealing and fighting against possible unjust decisions.

The transfer of the last imposed FIFA fine of 200,000 Swiss francs (about 67 million forints, or 185,000 euros) to supporters can be a significant deterrent, although many may wonder how legitimate the sanctions are. Our portal turned to a legal expert in the case, who confirmed that the claim of MLSZ is completely rightful.

"The penalty for disorderly conduct at the match is considered damage in a legal sense, and the fans responsible for the disturbance caused damage to MLSZ," explained sports lawyer Dr. Miklós Simor.Fans consent to being taped and having their picture taken when purchasing tickets, which can be used to identify them, so obtaining evidence against them is legal. A more complex question is how much of the penalty can be claimed from a supporter. The amount imposed by UEFA is an intangible loss, and it is difficult to judge what percentage of that is caused by someone's action. MLSZ will probably look at the people who certainly can be identified, who participated in the throwing, shouting racist slurs, and the Federation is expected to distribute the punishment based on the weight of their actions."

After the England-Hungary World Cup qualifier (1–1) on Tuesday, several British newspapers reported that there had been a fight in the visiting sector at the start of the match because a fan allegedly made a racist remark about one of the volunteers. However, based on the information provided by Bors, a Hungarian tabloid, it is questionable whether this is where the clash between supporters and law enforcement really started. An eyewitness, who spoke to the newspaper, said the organizers marched into the sector because a banner rejecting the take-the-knee gesture was held up high by one of the fans in the moments before kick-off. The fight broke out after Polish and Hungarian fans in the same sector came to the defense of their mate.

Translated by Vanda Orosz