UEFA is investigating the conduct of Liverpool fans over the two-legs of Liverpool’s Champions League quarterfinal fixture.
UEFA has charged Liverpool under Article 16(2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, which provides:
However, all associations and clubs are liable for the following inappropriate behaviour on the part of their supporters and may be subject to disciplinary measures and directives even if they can provide the absence of any negligence in relation to the organisation of the match:
- The invasion or attempted invasion of the field of play;
- The throwing of objects;
- The lighting of fireworks or any other objects;
- The use of laser pointers or similar electronic devices;
- The use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature;
- Acts of damage;
- Causing a disturbance during national anthems;
- Any other lack of order or discipline observed inside or around the stadium.
In the first-leg of the quarterfinal, Liverpool fans flooded the gates of Anfield to welcome the opposition team bus. Fans were seen throwing objects at the bus, prompting UEFA to charge Liverpool for acts of damage and crowd disturbances under Article 16(2) whilst the lighting of fireworks and flares and the throwing of objects during the game also prompted UEFA to charge Liverpool for its fans conduct.
In the second-leg, Liverpool was charged again as a result of its fans setting off fireworks and throwing objects during the game under Article 16(2).
The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary body is convening to deal with the case on 31 May 2018.
If found guilty and Liverpool fans continue to engage in this behaviour in its remaining Champions League fixtures (this season or possibly next season too), UEFA may consider the club to be a repeat offender. Under Article 25 of the Disciplinary Regulations, UEFA accounts for recidivism as an aggravating circumstance when investigating matters. Article 25(1) constitutes recidivism as:
[Occurring] if another offence of a similar nature is committed within:
- One year of the previous offence if that offence was punished with a suspension of up to two matches;
- Ten years of the previous offence if that offence was related to match-fixing or corruption;
- Two years of the previous offence if that offence was related to order and security at UEFA competition matches;
- Three years of the previous offence in all other cases.
The conduct to be reviewed by UEFA on 31 May 2018 could be considered as an offence relating to order and security at UEFA competition matches, falling under Article 25(1)(c). If found guilty of the current offences and further offences take place, Liverpool could receive heavier sanctions.
Annex A of the Disciplinary Regulations provides a list of disciplinary measures that UEFA can impose on a club. Whilst the lighting of fireworks and acts of damage usually carry the imposition of fines, if Liverpool is found to be a recidivist, heavier sanctions could be imposed.
Not only could the club be punished for these types of incidents, but fans can be punished as well.
West Ham United fans engaged in a similar incident in the club’s final Premier League game of the 2015-2016 season at the Boleyn Ground (also known as Upton Park). Fans were seen damaging the opposition team bus outside of the stadium. The incident prevented the bus from travelling the final 600 yards into the stadium for one hour and fifteen minutes, delaying kick off by 45 minutes. Whilst it is unclear whether the FA charged West Ham for this incident, it released a statement strongly condemning the incident, promising to work closely with the Metropolitan police to investigate the matters. West Ham also promised to issue life bans against the fans responsible whilst the Metropolitan police arrested four men in connection with the disorder.
Some football fans may consider these incidents as a part of the game, adding to the electric atmosphere surrounding certain fixtures. However, the element of intimidating an opponent before the match can cross certain lines beyond gamesmanship. Fans ought to be aware of the criminal charges they could face for engaging in such behaviour and the repercussions that their own club will face by governing bodies.