Russian football has been hit by a wave of fan protests following the mass detention of supporters at a match in Moscow. At the heart of the issue is a controversial plan for a fan identification system.
The stands aren’t as full as usual at the latest round of Russian Premier League matches across the country this weekend.
On Saturday in Samara, around 850km east of Moscow, sections of the crowd walked out before the meeting between Krylia Sovetov and CSKA was barely 20 minutes old.
Fans followed suit later in the day, including in Moscow as Spartak took on Akhmat Grozny and Lokomotiv hosted Ural.
In St. Petersburg the day before, Zenit fans in the ‘Virazh’ section of their Gazprom Arena home turned their backs and left en masse in the 60th minute of the match against Rostov.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="ru" dir="ltr">Болельщики «Зенита» покинули трибуны после 60-й минуты.<br><br>Фанаты не согласны с тем, что произошло после матча против ЦСКА в Москве. <a href="https://t.co/ZcLkzFcsox">pic.twitter.com/ZcLkzFcsox</a></p>— Матч ТВ (@MatchTV) <a href="https://twitter.com/MatchTV/status/1466823418066653193?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 3, 2021</a></blockquote>
The protests were precipitated by events a week ago in Moscow, when more than 400 CSKA fans were detained by riot police after dozens of them had set off flares in unison at the end of the game.
In an attempt to root out those responsible, and with the stadium CCTV cameras mysteriously suffering a hack attack which rendered them useless, an entire section of supporters at CSKA’s VEB Arena was initially blocked from leaving.
Fans were eventually filtered through security checks before being funneled in their hundreds into waiting police vans more than three hours after the final whistle. Accounts from supporters said they hadn’t even been able to use the toilets, although women and children were reportedly allowed to leave.
It was announced on Wednesday that 20 CSKA fans had been fined and banned from attending sporting events for a period of two years because of their role in the pyro display.
The fire show and the ensuing consequences dished out by police have sparked this weekend’s protests by fans – but it is the reason the pyro display was held in the place first which is the crux of far broader discontent among many Russian football sporters.
Before the flare-filled conclusion to the CSKA-Znit match, both sets of fans had chanted “We don’t need FAN ID”, in reference to contentious plans to introduce a fan ‘passport’ system for larger-scale sports events in Russia.
The scheme is not entirely alien to Russia. It was first used when Russia hosted the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and was utilized again at the Russia 2018 World Cup, as well as in St. Petersburg during Euro 2020. It requires fans to have a personalized FAN ID card in addition to their tickets in order to attend events.
But while those occasions saw Russia host multitudes of foreign fans, this time the debate is about rolling out the scheme permanently for domestic purposes.