Speaking at the Public Safety and Security Summit, Chris Eaton, FIFA’s Head of Security, advised Qatar to draw up a list of potential troublemakers who should be barred entry.
“You need to prevent football hooligans from entering Qatar for the Cup. In the UK, those spectators who behave badly and try to create trouble during a football game are referred to as football hooligans. UK has got a list of them and they should share it with Qatar,” Mr. Eaton said.
Mr. Eaton suggested that Interpol could also assist Qatar in drawing up the list.
“It is very important to act on this at the earliest. You need to collect all data and the best solution is to control the border. It is the holistic and active way to preventing them. It is important to talk to other countries and reject them even before they plan a visit,” Mr. Eaton said.
The security chief said that FIFA would complete a review of its safety and security regulations next year and that Qatar would have to abide by those rules.
While Mr. Eaton focuses on European hooligans, Qatar’s major problem could be highly politicized Arab militant soccer fans who have played a major role in anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
The fans, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia where protesters earlier this year forced presidents Hosni Mubarak and Zine Abedine Ben Ali to resign, have since been in the forefront of demonstrations demanding an end to corruption and the dismissal of officials and executives appointed by their former autocratic leaders.
Granted, much is likely to have changed by the time Qatar hosts the games in eleven years from now, but soccer officials fear that the Middle East and North Africa could be experiencing turmoil for years to come.
Prominent Bahraini soccer players were among those detained as a result of protests on the Gulf island.
Mohammed Hubail, a national team player, was sentenced by a military court earlier this week to two years in prison for participating in the protests.
The post-revolution protests in Egypt and Tunisia have led to an increase in violence on the soccer pitch. The militants have stormed pitches during international and domestic matches, thrown stones and attacked referees and players.
Like the region itself, Middle Eastern and North African soccer could experience turmoil for some time to come. Protesters as well as clubs in Egypt have demanded the resignation of the Mubarak-era appointed board of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) and have already forced the management of one Premier League club, Ittihad al-Skanadrya, to resign.
Egyptian and other soccer clubs and leagues are under pressure from FIFA to radically restructure and conform to FIFA rules in the coming years. This involves becoming financially self-sufficient rather than relying on government subsidies, reduction of government interference, limiting ownership of premier leagues of one club per owner, ensuring that each club has its own stadium and properly structuring broadcasting and other commercial rights.
Qatar is hoping that increasing criticism of soccer violence in the Arab world will lead to a change in behavior of militant soccer fans. It is also counting on the fact that by the time it hosts the World Cup, the current generation of militants will have been succeeded by a new generation that has emerged from a post-revolution environment that has settled down and is more about building transparent societies with good governance rather than breaking down the vestiges of autocratic rule.