Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland face a “huge image problem” over hooliganism, UEFA has stated.
The criticism, from Martin Kallen, UEFA’s director of the EURO 2012 finals Poland will stage with Ukraine in 14 months’ time, comes days after the latest hooligan outbreak when Polish fans caused trouble at a friendly with Lithuania in Kaunas on Friday.
Kallen told delegates at the Soccerex European business forum there were now outbreaks of hooliganism at just about every league match in Poland.
More than 60 Polish fans were detained after throwing bottles and flares at police in Lithuania last week.
Police responded by firing tear-gas to control the rioting fans outside the Darius and Girenas stadium in Kaunas before and during the match which Poland lost 2-0.
The Polish government has also announced new legislation to tackle football violence similar to the laws intorduced by Germany for the 2006 World Cup.
Kallen said: “We are concerned but I know the Polish government is also concerned but we are not going to let a minority spoil it for the majority.
“They know they have a huge image problem, there are always hooligans around every match day in the league but the government is making the right steps for the future.
“What we saw at last Friday’s match was not a very good picture to see that happening in a stadium. We and the Polish government are concerned, they are taking this seriously and will have changes in the next month.”
Kallen said he was convinced the championship would pass off peacefully and was not too concerned about trouble at the tournament itself as the problem was more linked to club matches.
He added: “For the Euro, different people will be coming to matches—there will be more families. The Euros are a party and in many areas there is more a problem on a daily basis for club matches. But, clearly, we are facing some challenges.
Marcin Herra, head of the Poland 2012 organisers, told delegates there would be “zero tolerance” for hooligans but he was quick to add that the championship would leave a lasting positive legacy for his country and Ukraine.
“We have new legislation which allows us to work much more precisely against those hooligans.
“There will be zero tolerance to make sure that 500 people cannot spoil the event for one million people.”
Kallen added that some infrastructure improvements would not be ready in time for the finals and some motorway construction would not be completed.
“It will not be anything drastic, you might have to take a small detour here and there, but everything else, including all the stadiums, will be ready,” he said.