Parliament’s youth and sports and constitutional and legislative affairs committees approved a bill last Monday that stipulates harsher penalties for sports team fan associations set up in contravention of the law.
The articles of the draft law, which was proposed by the government in May 2016, primarily target Egypt’s famous Ultras football fan clubs, which have been in frequent confrontation with the state in recent years, a conflict that has seen spectators banned from attending football matches since February 2012, bar few exceptions.
The committees sent the draft law to the house speaker, who will schedule it in the house’s agenda, local news reported.
The punitive measures of the draft law include 13 articles addressing “crimes of disorderly conduct in sports fields.” Among them is Article 88, which states that anyone who “by words either spoken or reproduced in signs, defames or insults a natural or legal person, or incites feelings of hatred or racial discrimination by any means of publicity, during or as a result of a sporting activity” can face “imprisonment for a period not less than one year or a fine or both.” The penalty is doubled if “the previous action is taken against a body or authority securing the sporting activity or the activity’s employees.”
The bill also stipulates that anyone entering or attempting to enter the premises of a sporting activity without having the right to do so will be imprisoned for a period of at least six months, which is doubled if the person is found in possession of fireworks or flammable materials or “any means which could be used to harm others or damage buildings or property.”
The law also criminalizes the establishment of sporting associations in contravention of the statutes of sporting authorities, sanctioned by the law. Anyone who founds an illegal sporting association will be subject to imprisonment for a minimum of three years, a fine or both. “Whoever, in any form, incites rioting among spectators or attacks buildings or property or interrupts a sporting activity in any form” may also face jail time, the duration of which is not defined.
The punitive measures targeting fan associations that included in the most recent draft were not present in the draft law published on the website of the Youth and Sports Ministry in September.
MP Radwan al-Zayyaty, deputy of Parliament’s Youth and Sports Committee, explains that the ministry “prepared the draft and Parliament added a punitive chapter in the bill to address disorder in football matches.” Speaking to Mada Masr, Zayyaty adds that Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal has stated the law will be put to a final vote and sent to the president to issue it soon, and expects it to come into effect by April or May.
The Youth and Sports Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee approved the bill in a meeting attended by Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel Aziz last February. A report on the bill’s final draft will be presented to the speaker and his two deputies before a date is scheduled for a vote.
Member of the Constitutional and Legislative Committee Ahmed Sharqawy tells Mada Masr that the bill was approved after a five-minute discussion during Monday’s session. He says that despite the speaker’s decision last June to refer the bill to a joint-committee comprising of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and the Youth and Sports Committee, only the latter had a chance to discuss the articles of the bill.
Sharqawy tells Mada Masr the shortage of time to discuss the bill was the result of the creation of a sub-committee, of which he was not a part.
The six-member sub-committee, which consisted of three MPs from each of the two committees, revised the Youth and Sports Committee’s amendments and redrafted articles addressing procedures of appeal, penalties and conflict-resolution. Only the Constitutional and Legislative Committee approved the work of the sub-committee, Sharqawy said.
Constitutional and Legislative Committee head Bahaa Abu Shaqqa decided on the formation of the sub-committee on November 1, 2016. Presided over by Hassan Basiouny, it included Mohamed Farag Amer, president of Alexandria’s Semouha Club and head of the Youth and Sports Committee, in addition to Radwan al-Zayyaty and Hamdy al-Sisi, also from that committee, as well as Abdel Moneim al-Eleimy and Gamal Eddin al-Sherif from the constitutional committee. The sub-committee finished on November 9.
Sharqawy calls the bill “a minefield,” explaining that the punitive measures are not proportional to the crimes and need further study.
Conversely, international arbitrator and Youth and Sports Committee member Reda al-Beltagy, MP, commends the bill, saying it will “allow the return of the Egyptian family to the stadium and will attract investments and quicken the pace of resolving sporting conflicts.”
He adds that the sports committee “discussed the articles of the bill and studied them closely over the past six months,” saying that several societal dialogues were conducted and attended by many concerned parties.
Translated by Osman El Sharnoubi