Clubs coy on Fufa's new rules to curb hooliganism

Football fans can easily go from ecstasy to violence in a flash but who should bear the blame? PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

Two suspects –Noah Mukenya and Sulaiman Zimula- were picked out and reported to police. They were arrested and arraigned at the Matugga Court on Tuesday where the case was adjourned until November 28 and remanded to prison.

It's that period again when the Fufa Competitions Disciplinary Panel is busy throwing sanctions and fines here and there because of hooliganism.

Despite the fact that there are existing Fufa rules and a new national sports law  that criminalizes hooliganism, the vice has continued into the new season with some serious consequences.

Barely a fortnight ago, on  October 27, the Uganda Football Referees Association (UFRA) decided to boycott all Express matches after referee Fahad Sekayuba was assaulted on his way back home from the Red Eagles 1-1 draw away to UPDF. The match was played inside the Bombo Military Barracks.

Two days earlier, Fufa had just slapped a Shs2m fine on Gaddafi president Edrine Ochieng after finding him guilty of “punching, kicking and abusing” a referees' assessor inside the dressing room at the Gaddafi Barracks.

Tightening the grip

While the second offence attracted only a fine, the first against Sekayuba tested the new National Sports Act 2023;

Two suspects –Noah Mukenya and Sulaiman Zimula- were picked out and reported to police. They were arrested and arraigned at the Matugga Court on Tuesday where the case was adjourned until November 28 and remanded to prison.

The difference between the two events is that the latter happened inside the confines of a stadium as defined by Fufa whilst the first was outside.

The Fufa executive committee based on that to amend the rules and ethics codes.

“Fufa has observed a new trend of acts of hooliganism and whereas the criminal elements of any kind of hooliganism are adequately addressed by the National Sports Act 2023, the current Fufa Rules did not provide for incidents outside precinct of the match venue and game time,” the Fufa statement explained the background of the executive committee’s recent amendments to both the competitions rules and ethics and disciplinary Code.

Questions arise

Section 39 of the Fufa competitions rules was amended to include an article that sanctions parties who cause violence “outside the precincts of the match venue or outside game time but logically linked to a match.”

The executive has handed empty charge sheets to their respective judicial bodies to handle the particular cases and sanction the guilty parties including the clubs as they deem fit.

In the previous cases, the judicial bodies largely relied on match coordinators’, referees and their assessors’ reports or pictorials and video footage but this case finds a new ground outside Fufa’s jurisdiction.

If chaos happens outside the stadium and causes an abandonment before the match kicks off but according to Fufa “is logically linked” to the match, the club whose fans are found guilty will be liable for sanctions that may include points deduction.

A UPL club official queries the new rules;

“How will Fufa use logic to decide a case without clear evidence? We have already seen bias in the cases they’re handling now by giving different sanctions to cases of similar nature,” the chairman contributed on condition of anonymity.

“We should leave the matters outside the stadium for bodies trained to handle such cases under the law because we now have a law.

“You can’t blame a club for chaos caused by people who don’t even pay membership and then go on to fight someone somewhere in the streets afterwards but you can punish the club for failing to control them inside the stadium and that’s why there’s a requirement to hire security,” he added.

Beyond our limits

Should a similar situation like that after the UPDF-Express match happen, then the respective club whose fans are deemed to be at fault will lose two points and two goals from the already accumulated. A fine of up to Shs3m will be slapped on a club if it was a cup competition.

However, if the culprits are identified and it is proved the club did not influence the actions will be vindicated but at Fufa’s mercy.

The culprits will be banned according to the new law and the respective club will be required to display a picture of the said persons at their stadium.

A number of StarTimes Uganda Premier and Big League clubs that shared their concerns on the new rules both on and off record feel Fufa is stretching their limits too far.

“I think it’s putting too much work for club’s which is unnecessary for example the incident in Matugga, how could the club have stopped it or avoided it?” Sula Kamoga, Wakiso Giants chief executive officer shares his thoughts.

Prone to abuse

Mercy Munduru, the head of marketing and manager at Onduparaka and a lawyer by profession feels Fufa should have done more research before amending the rules.

Onduparaka has previously suffered severe consequences of the vice which by that time the team felt the sanctions were too harsh.

“Fufa currently doesn’t have the right institutional framework to undertake comprehensive investigations; it would be great for them to undertake proper research and a situational analysis to arrive at whatever amendment,” she advises.

Identification challenge

Referees are not the only ones affected by hooliganism outside the stadium. Former Big League side Adjumani Town Council were attacked shortly after leaving the Mbale City Stadium following their 4-2 loss to Kataka on April 6.

The Mbale side distanced themselves from “such acts” claiming that those “were acts of individuals not in any way connected to the fans of Kataka FC as a team.”

Adjumani insisted it was Kataka’s fans who were dressed in their jerseys and were coming from the stadium.

Several players from Adjumani were hospitalized for days but never received justice. Ironically, Kataka was sanctioned at the beginning of last season for a similar incident that happened inside the same stadium.

Munduru brings out another situation: “This amendment is prone to abuse, because anybody can use an accident picture/video as was the case we had with Arua Hill where Fufa referred to the evidence presented (by Arua Hill) despite Joel [Aita, Arua’s president] having deleted the same.”

Security for referees 

Veteran sports journalists John Vianney Nsiimbe believes the referees, who are the main victims of these assaults should be protected by Fufa.

"I think Fufa should provide security for their match officials during and after games. For example, Fufa may have to liaise with regional Police officials to provide security for referees to a certain distance because clubs can only have control inside the stadium

"In the short-term, the referees can opt to delay inside the stadium for some time and allow fans to disperse or move with the same policemen that provide security during the matches because this is an age-old problem that rules alone may not solve," he adds.