Russian fans claim dozens were denied entry to Confederations Cup matches a few hours before the competition opener against New Zealand on Saturday.
The validity of numerous government-issued supporter identifications being revoked meant that a ticket for Russia‘s curtain-raiser alone wasn’t enough to enter the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
One noted fan leader, Alexander Shprygin, revealed to Reuters on Saturday that he was among those barred from games at the tournament. He chairs the Russian Fans’ Union, which lost support from the country’s football authorities and government when two of its then-board members were involved in violence at Euro 2016 in France. Shprygin himself was expelled twice from France following the running battles between Russian and English fans.
“There’s basically no reason for this,” Shprygin complained, confirming that he’d been notified of the ID annulment via email. “I’ve never broken the law at a football game, never been arrested. I don’t know why this happened.”
The Multilingual Fan Support Center told The Associated Press it received "tens of messages from fans about the annulment of previously issued fan IDs," and it's understood that those hit by this decision shouldn't be on the blacklist released by Russia's interior ministry. That register names 191 fans – or 292, according to Reuters – who aren't allowed to enter any official sporting events in Russia, and they would've been refused the sale of Confederations Cup tickets during the application process.
Russian police wouldn’t comment on the widespread cancellation of supporter IDs, but cases of it happening could’ve been down to finding evidence of fans causing trouble abroad after the blacklist was drawn up.
Preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia have faced severe scrutiny, particularly after many supporting the national team at least year’s European Championship were at the forefront of fighting in France, especially in Marseille. The government’s measures to rid the Confederations Cup and next year’s showpiece of dangerous spectators will go some way to allaying fears of violent scenes occurring around those prestigious football matches.
Evidence of malpractice leading up to the 2018 event won’t abate, however, and took a sorry turn on Wednesday, when findings of 17 construction worker deaths, and various exploitation and labour violations during the building of venues were released. On the same day, a fire had to be extinguished at the Volgograd Arena – a stadium set to host four group matches at the World Cup – because of what the Emergencies Ministry deemed a “violation of fire safety regulations during welding.”
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