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Soccer Heads Set Up Anti-Violence Task Force

At a crisis meeting in Frankfurt, the two most powerful functionaries in German soccer say enough is enough. A special task force will now deal with violence and racism in German stadiums.

Dynamo Dresden fans waving flags

Fan violence broke out earlier this year in a Dresden stadium too

The President of the German Soccer Association (DFB), Theo Zwanziger, and Bundesliga President Werner Hackmann called the summit after scores of arrests and 23 injured policeman at lower-division matches over the weekend. In addition to the task force, the DFB will name a full-time security official to coordinate the group's various efforts to prevent violence.

After the meeting, Zwanziger said the task force would adopt a two-pronged approach. "On the one hand," he said, "we'll make full use of our legal options and hand out tough punishments. On the other hand, we'll work to educate people and create the necessary awareness though better training of our employees and intensive preventative measures -- for example, in conjunction with fan projects and fan groups."

Last weekend's violence underscored the need for action. In the worst incident, 23 policeman were hurt after fans of third-division Dynamo Dresden tried to storm the field at an away match against Hertha Berlin's amateurs. A total of 22 people were taken into custody in the conflict.

"Security officials were pelted with gas cartridges and plastic seats," a spokesman for the Berlin police told Die Welt newspaper on Monday. "Our colleagues had to defend themselves with batons and pepper spray."

In other clashes, police used pepper spray and arrested 21 people at a second-division match between southern German sides Augsburg and 1860 Munich. In addition, 70 amateur and youth matches in Siegen-Wittgenstein region were called off after referees, fearing for their safety, refused to take the field.

Ignorance and arrogance

DFB President Theo Zwanziger

Zwanziger says he's very concerned about violence in the lower divisions

Dynamo Dresden's business director blamed an over-reaction by stadium security officials for escalating the violence in Berlin -- an accusation Berlin Police President Dieter Glietsch vigorously rejected.

"The interpretation of Dynamo officials demonstrates ignorance and arrogance," Glietsch told Die Welt. "It only serves to encourage hooliganism, when, as is the case here, team leaders turn hooligans into the victims and the police officials who were attacked into the victims."

The DFB is currently investigating Dyanamo Dresden's role in that incident. Zwanziger has also threatened disciplinary measures, if there is a repeat of last weekend's mayhem at Dresden's match against Union Berlin on Saturday.

"Points that arise by the use of violence are not the sort of points we want to hand out in German soccer," Zwanziger said in a television interview.

Not the police's job

Hansa Rostock fans lighting flares

22 Dynamo Dresden fans were detained over the weekend

According to the Central Information Office for Sports Security Deployments (ZIS) in Düsseldorf, the incidents in Berlin and Augsburg are less the exception than the norm.

"What happened last weekend is regrettable but not new," ZIS director Michael Endler told the Financial Times Deutschland. "The statistics we have about incidents of this sort show that the situation has existed for five or six years."

While violence may be declining in German soccer's upper divisions, there are signs it's on the rise in the lower ranks, and some politicians have said clubs need to do more.

"This isn't the police's job," said Peter Trapp, the police expert for the Christian Democrats in Berlin. "The clubs have to make use of their rights as owners or occupiers of stadium premises and provide security services."

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