Crowd violence and governmental interference caps a bad week in Poland

Polish football has been dragged through the mud this week. Firstly, brutal crowd violence erupted at the second division match between Flota Swinoujscie and Wisla Plock. And then perhaps even more importantly, FIFA and UEFA has been forced to threaten the Polish FA after claiming that there is political interference in Polish football.

With Poland due to host the 2012 European Championships alongside the Ukraine, all problems in Polish football are now magnified as they are charged with living up to the responsibilities of being a host nation. On the political level, the problems stem from the fact that the government suspended the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), alleging that the PZPN had failed to address allegations of corruption following a ruling from the Polish Olympic Committee. In its ruling, Robert Zawlocki was installed by the government as temporary chief of the PZPN, against the wishes of football’s governing bodies. And as a result, both FIFA and UEFA have made clear their hard-line stance, that political interference with an international football federation is prohibited, and insisting that they will only recognise the previous Polish board.

The whole episode forces the governing bodies into a humiliating position. On the one hand they must assert the rule of law in football and denounce the Polish government with the threat of sanctions. But on the other hand FIFA and UEFA need to justify Poland’s selection as the 2012 host-nation, and all indiscretions of the part of the Poles reacts badly on the governing bodies’ decision-makers.

So serious is the episode that Uefa spokesman William Gaillard has gone on record saying, “If the problem is not solved and the Polish FA will not have ability to operate then it’s a different ball game, and that opens all kinds of question marks around Euro 2012. The European Championships are administrated through the Polish and Ukrainian FAs, not their governments. If there is no legitimate Polish FA then we will not have a Euro in Poland – we are a long way from that situation but that is what they must face.”

Sadly, the off-the-field problems are only half of the troubles facing Polish football. Several months ago the BBC had a special report on racism found on the terraces in Poland, and just last weekend we saw that football violence remains a living, breathing entity in Poland, shown by aggressive and violent Wisla Plock fans who travelled to Flota Swinoujscie.

Seeing their team fall behind to their hosts, the gang of travelling supporters, dolled up in their uniform of hoodies, jeans and trainers, decided to take their anger out on their host supporters. In pictures straight out of the movies, the provocative away supporters faced little resistance as they violently forced their way into the home support, dealing with any opposition to their movements with their fists. Punches and kicks were all caught on camera as Polish football presented itself as a violent world of thugs. Eventually the riot police got involved, but only after the two sides seemed to take large chunks out of each other.

The deplorable fight can be seen here.

(Credit to The Offside)