The Egyptian Interior Ministry, in a sign of changing times, has advised the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) that clubs will be responsible for security during Premier League matches.
In a letter to the EFA, the ministry said clubs would have to ensure that fans are prevented from bringing weapons, fireworks and fares into the stadium. It said the police would only play a supervisory role.
The ministry said clubs would also have to ensure the safety of the players, coaching staffs, referees, linesmen and match commissioners. The new policy is in accordance with regulations of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
The letter marks a radical change in policy compared to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak when police mounted heavy handed security operations at matches and clashed regularly with ultras – militant, highly politicized, violence-prone supporter groups.
The new policy is part of an effort by the police, widely viewed as repressive henchmen of the Mubarak regime, to avoid clashes and repair their tarnished image.
It follows the invasion of the pitch earlier this month of an African championship match in the Cairo International Stadium between crowned Cairo club Zamalek SC and Tunisia’s Club Africain. Angry fans destroyed goalposts and everything else in their path and attacked the referee and players. Police were barely present during the incident and refrained from intervening.
The ministry sent the letter days before Egypt’s Premier League is set to restart on April 13 for the first time since late January when it was suspended to prevent the pitch from becoming an opposition rallying point.
Egypt’s ruling military authorities agreed only reluctantly to the resumption after clubs warned that the continued match suspension could bankrupt them. The new policy is likely to add to the financial burden of already financially troubled clubs.