Professional soccer players are increasingly worried about their safety on the field because of verbal and physical violence from fans, a survey among male players by Hoofddorp-based international players union FIFPro has shown.
Players are particularly concerned they will get hit by fireworks, or other objects thrown onto the pitch, and being attacked by pitch invaders. They also feel threatened by racist chants and comments, and insults to relatives.
The aggressive atmosphere in the stadiums is affecting players, FIFPro found, and is detrimental to their mental health.
Many of them said they are bothered by the fact they are expected to accept what is happening without being able to comment on it. Violence in stadiums has been normalised, and many incidents are not even mentioned, the survey said.
Players also fear that if they were more outspoken their chances of a transfer would suffer.
FIFPro also spoke to 41 national football unions and some 98% said the solution would be to introduce facial recognition technology at the stadiums to discourage violent behaviour among fans.
FIFPro chief Alexander Bielefeld said players are “victims of an unchecked, normalised culture of violence in the workplace”.
In December Amsterdam football club Ajax started a campaign calling on fans to report online hate messages addressed to players. In a match against Sparta Ajax players wore shirts from which their names had been removed. According to the club, players are receiving on average over 1,500 hate messages a month on social media.
In October last year, a report on behalf of police slated clubs for not investing enough in stadium safety over the past few years allowing hooliganism to flourish. A new group of young supporters who drink too much and take too many drugs is shaping the way football-related violence is moving, the report said.
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