Security in stadiums: Austria - banter at the alps
At the end of the year 2012, the paper "Secure stadium experience" was introduced into German football. While this package of measures is into its second season now, we would like to see how our European neighbours handle the topic of security in football. For the start of this series, our editor mrg and Werner Brugger took a look at Austria. The original article was published on our German site and then translated by Nadja.
The little alp republic is standing in the shadow of the big football nations in Europe. Despite the tame football, a very lively and active fan scene has evolved in Austria. Shaped by the close by Italy, the stands in Austria are characterized and led by the Ultras much more than in Germany. Still there are little violence issues, even at the Vienna Derby (Rapid – Austria), but the groups have disciplined themselves when the fans were facing the same dangers as in Germany: exclusion of the away supporters. There is still some skirmish in the lower leagues with traditional clubs as GAK, Blau-Weiß Linz, LASK (graduated to the second division again). Austria Salzburg has solved the problem very well in cooperation with club and fans. Risk games are, if they are facing each other in the league, which is only partly the case: Rapid – Austria, Sturm – GAK (at the moment in the Landesliga Steiermark), Austria Salzburg (Regionalliga West, unfortunately not managed to graduate) – Wacker Innsbruck (2nd division), LASK (Linzer ASK, graduated to the 2nd divisoin again) – Blau-Weiß Linz (RL Mitte). Pure hooligan groups are basically unknown, at Austria Vienna a fan club was expelled because of right wing politics which was supported by a broad part of the scene.
Especially the Vienna Derby is considered a high-risk game. In Vienna there are different activities by the police before a derby that have not led to any result last season. But to be fair, one has to note that some years ago Rapid fans made a pitch invasion in the derby (also actively involved were hooligans of the Athene scene of Panatinaikos Gate 13) and did a disservice to the club and themselves. That still has an effect. Other than that, there’s nothing going on in the days before the game. But in the above mentioned games, there’s an extra police presence clearly visible.
The relation between Ultras and police is, just as in Germany, characterized by voicelessness. In some places there’s an indirect dialog through the clubs, but this also is not self-evident. The missing dialog between police and Ultras is also the cause of a controversial operation of the Vienna police. Last summer, there was a very excessive police operation – confirmed by innocent bystanders that have no contacts to the Ultra scene – at the game Rapid – Nuremberg that also 2’000 fans of Nuremberg were attending. The two friendly groups were “surprised” by the police in the Kreißlergasse at a fan party (next to the Weststadium). More about this and the official statement of the Rapid Ultras can be read at www.ultrasrapid.at. It seems quite obvious that the driving force in this case really was the police. The media in Austria immediately took over the police statements and have no clue about the fan scene at all. Ultras are often confused or equated with hooligans. A hysteria, mainly caused by the media, is also breaking out before each away game of Austria Salzburg in Tirol. After half a dozen games without the slightest incident, this is now slowly fading away.
For away journeys and pyrotechnics, the conditions in Austria are a lot more fan friendly. There have not been any pre-defined journeys or personalized tickets. But of course one of the reasons for that is that calling some venues “province” is a kind understatement. There is no useful train connection at some places which makes it a lot more difficult to make such requirements.
Pyrotechnics are generally banned, but there are clubs that use their domiciliary rights to allow it sometimes (e.g. Wacker Innsbruck). At Austria Salzburg pyrotechnics are common, is fired organized and – surprise! – there have been no injuries last season.
In general, Austria is a football pygmy and even if especially the Ultra scene has a long tradition, one has to conclude that the dimensions are just clearly smaller.
Altogether, the usually so conservative Austria has comparatively little repressions and measures what is also caused by the little social importance of football.