St. Petersburg, May 16 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Zenit St. Petersburg will become the first football club in Russia to open its own school for match stewards.
Russian football matches are typically watched over by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of police keen to stamp out hooliganism but their presence is often blamed for ramping up tensions. Zenit’s security chief Yury Fedotov said intense policing damaged fans’ experience of games.
“We are convinced that going to the stadium should give people a holiday feeling and positive emotions. That’s why Zenit, as the first Russian Premier League club, has taken measures to reduce the number of police at the stadium, replacing them with stewards from private security organisations,” he said on the club website Thursday.
Stewards at Zenit’s new school will be taught the laws governing matchday security and “the basics of etiquette,” the club said.
There have been plans to reduce the police presence at Russian stadiums before but they have often fallen short.
In July, Premier League security head Alexander Meitin proposed “invisible security” and planned to use the pre-season Super Cup as a demonstration of how stewards could replace police but the scheme fell apart when heavily-armed police units turned up at the game despite being told they were not needed.
Zenit’s fans came in for criticism in November when a flare thrown from their sector at Dynamo Moscow’s Stadium injured opposing goalkeeper Anton Shunin and forced the match to be abandoned. Police detained dozens of fans but did not find the culprit.