Russian politician Igor Lebedev has proposed an unorthodox solution to the problem of football hooliganism ahead of next year’s World Cup — turn it into a spectator sport.
Lebedev, a member of the Russian parliament, has drawn up rules for what he termed “draka,” the Russian word for “fight” – featuring 20 unarmed fighters on each side and set in an arena.
Russian fans, many with martial arts training, made the headlines during Euro 2016 when they fought running battles with English fans on the streets of Marseille.
At the time Lebedev, an MP for the Liberal Democrat Party, seemed to encourage the violence, telling Russian fans: “Well done lads, keep it up!”
With Russia hosting the World Cup in 2018, many fear a repeat of the violence seen in France, with Russian hooligan groups already promising there will be trouble.
The controversial politician published his aims on the nationalist LDPR party’s website.
“Russia would be a pioneer in a new sport,” the statement said, while also suggesting the fights between different fan groups could draw thousands of spectators.
“English fans arrive, for example, and start picking fights. And they get the answer – challenge accepted. A meeting in a stadium at a set time.”
Igor Lebedev's website on his new policy:
"Russia would be a pioneer in a new sport. Fans arrive and start fights. Challenge accepted." pic.twitter.com/0RkvTUGh0i
— Messi Minutes (@MessiMinutes) March 5, 2017
He added that the organised brawls “could turn fans’ aggression in a peaceful direction.”
He also claimed such an activity could serve as a positive “example” for English hooligans, who he characterised as undisciplined louts and poor fighters.
Fan groups in Russia already hold such illicit fights, arranging mass brawls in quiet areas away from the authorities.
Lebedev is also a member of the board of the Russian Football Union.