16 clubs await new season
The new season of the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) is set to kick-off on Sunday, December 1, 2019, with 16 clubs participating in the season-long competition. Furthermore, there is a new committee established to monitor the league, with seven members elected from the clubs, forming the committee.
With various on and off-field issues such as destruction of property, violence among fans and against officials, being the normalcy of previous seasons; the newly-established committee will monitor and manage the 22nd season of the EPL. In addition, fan associations have also been engaged in a series of meetings to discuss on solutions to the challenges faced in the league.
It is to be recalled that due to the violence among football fans and the political instability in the country, some clubs refrained from travelling to regions for their respective matches, further exasperating the situation. This led to a number of matches to be postponed.
In light of the growing problems, the EPL faces, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) came-up with a proposal to increase the number of clubs involved to 24, reviewing and restructuring the current format. However, it can be recalled that, the proposal failed to get the consensus needed and a final decision was passed to establish the committee and have only 16 clubs participate.
The new setup is expected to make an immediate impact and bring positive changes to the decorum of the competition. A case in point, the City Cup competition that was recently held in city has shown good progress. Furthermore, Fans of St. George FC and Ethiopia Coffee FC, who were the semifinalists for the Cup, have showcased a remarkable discipline before and after the match. It can be remembered that previously, in football matches between the two derby clubs, fans created an intense and a violent atmosphere in the City and in the stadium.
However, the two clubs fan’s associations have formed a joint association in order to work on fans discipline and create a peaceful atmosphere during fixtures. This initiation has brought progressive changes, with Presidents of the associations suggesting investigations, into the initial reasons and provocations in and out of the stadiums, in order to find out the core reasons for the violence.
In an incident that took place during the UEFA qualifier match between England and Russia national teams, in 2016; it is to be recalled that fans had resorted to violence and around 30 football spectators ended-up critically injured. Hence, the BBC, in its report has highlighted the 5 major reasons for football matches to turn into violence, suggesting possible solutions.
One of the reasons for the violence, as per the BBC, is fans intoxication. It sated that if football fans take too much alcohol and make their ways to stadiums, the chances of violence to occur is high. The BBC suggested for the prohibition of alcohol consumption by fans within the 24 hours of the match.
As a second solution, it suggested to hold matches at an earlier time to avoid fans from drinking alcohol as many alcohol consumers start drinking after noon.
The third solution is to hold football matches without spectators, so as to bring behavioral changes among football fans.
The fourth suggestion was to separate seats for opposing fans rather than siting close to each other which increases the possibility of disagreements and violence between fans. The last solution the BBC suggests is to organize sessions for fans on issues of discipline, responsibility and mutual understanding to bring behavioral changes.
The EPL, which many think is yet to grow, will face a tough ask in holding matches in the scheduled period. During this season, security forces, City administrations, regional states, fans associations and other relevant stakeholders are expected to play their role to achieve the desired results.