The Chaplain for Sport has condemned “committed thugs” who hijack sporting events in order to spread violence, fear and hostility.
Mgr Vladimir Felzmann admitted that many sports fans attend events due to their passion, however, a small minority can manipulate this and cause discomfort for fellow spectators.
His comments come following UEFA charges against St Etienne over incidents involving their fans during a recent Europa League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat-trick secured United a comfortable 3-0 win in the first leg of their last-32 tie at Old Trafford, where the raucous travelling fans made their presence known.
However, some of the over-zealous aspects of that support led governing body UEFA to take action against St Etienne.
‘Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against AS St Etienne due to the behaviour of their supporters during their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match against Manchester United FC on 16th February 2017 at Old Trafford,’ read a statement from European football’s governing body.
‘The following proceedings have been opened against AS St Etienne for the following infringements: Setting off of firework – Art. 16 (2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations (DR); Throwing of objects – Art. 16 (2) DR; Improper conduct of supporters – Art. 16 (2) DR.’
“Many football fans are passionate about football – and in particular the team they support. All very well and very good!” Mgr Felzmann, who is also the CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, told The Universe.
When channelled through rituals of song, chants and applause, that passion enhances many lives and makes the game a great delight.
“But passion can knock-out – anaesthetise – reason just like a drug,” he continued. “Then, anonymous in a crowd of spectators, a hard-core bent on mischief and keen to release their aggression can turn the beautiful game very ugly – and destructive, giving it a bad name.”
The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will deal with the case at its meeting on 23rd March – 29 days after the second leg, which took place at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard earlier this week on Wednesday 22nd February.
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:
Saturday 25th February
Chelsea v Swansea City – 3:00pm
Crystal Palace v Middlesbrough – 3:00pm
Everton v Sunderland – 3:00pm
Hull City v Burnley – 3:00pm
West Bromwich Albion v Bournemouth – 3:00pm
Watford v West Ham United – 5:30pm
Sunday 26th February
Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City – 1:30pm
Football League Cup Final
Manchester United v Southampton – 4:30pm
Picture: Flares in the stands during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, First Leg match at Old Trafford in Manchester. (Martin Rickett PA Wire/PA Images).