FIFA safety expert: ‘The same thing went wrong at AZ and FC Groningen: organization’

FIFA safety expert: ‘The same thing went wrong at AZ and FC Groningen: organization’

NOS Football

FIFA security expert Will van Rhee lashes out at AZ and FC Groningen, where riots broke out recently. He argues that security in both stadiums was not in good order. Van Rhee has been a senior security officer at FIFA for 18 years. “Problems can be prevented if the organization is good. There was information beforehand that things could go wrong. Yet riots broke out. So you don’t have it right as a club.”

Supporters of AZ broke through a fence on Thursday immediately after the lost Conference League semifinal and sought confrontation with supporters of West Ham United in the main stand. At FC Groningen, the premier league match against Ajax was stopped in the ninth minute after fireworks were thrown onto the pitch twice.

Watch the incidents at both clubs here:

A police spokesman said AZ is basically responsible for maintaining security at the stadium. “The police maintain public order and safety. After a call, we went to the stadium to restore that security.”

‘Borrow additional stewards’

A good plan of action beforehand is essential, says Van Rhee. You make that as a club together with police and justice. He himself partly believes in the power of enough stewards. “Surely it is too crazy for words that one big solid West Ham supporter is trying to stop angry hooligans? Where are the stewards? Not with enough, and not where they should be.”

FIFA security expert Van Rhee on soccer riots: ‘Organization not in order’

Van Rhee himself was involved in organizing the KNVB Cup match between Spakenburg and PSV in early April. “We then brought in stewards from friendly clubs so we had more manpower in the stadium. Virtually nothing in the way of disturbances happened at that game, with the exception of the racist chants.”


Van Rhee: “You have to increase the chance of being caught. When I hear that still no arrests have been made at AZ, I don’t understand that. You know the potential troublemakers, you see what happens with smart cameras. Identify them and get the bill to them.”

He cites section control as an example. “I often drive a little too fast, 110 where you can go 100. Except on the A2, where there is section control and I am sure I will be fined. If the chance of being caught is as low as it is now, you will always have this kind of problem.”

Alkmaar mayor Anja Schouten says she will do everything in her power to track down the misbehaving supporters. “This cannot and will not be without consequences. The first talks about this started last night in the triangle. We have to get to work on this, together with police, OM, AZ and municipality.”

Intensively prepared

She further informs that the match was intensively prepared in close consultation with club, OM and police, as usual. “By, among other things, setting up a meeting point for West Ham supporters at the Paardenmarkt the supporter groups were separated. From that spot, bus transportation has also been deployed for these supporters to the stadium.”

AZ general manager Robert Eenhoorn pulled the penitent rug yesterday. “You hope the fence will hold, but this was not the case. This did not go well. Internally we are going to talk about this.”

Kayleigh Williams