Rapid bosses under fire after riot

Officials at Austria’s most popular football club are pressurised to be more stringent after hundreds of hooligans invaded the pitch during a crucial league match at the weekend.Around 200 Rapid Vienna supporters stormed on the green from the west stand at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium in Vienna-Penzing yesterday afternoon (Sun) after Austria Vienna midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic made it 2-0 in the 26th minute for the away side in the 297th Vienna derby. Roland Linz had scored the opener only five minutes after kick-off.More than 700 special police unit officers entered the field to keep the hooligans – many of them masked – away from the Austria Vienna fan stand. The rioters hurled rocket flares and firecrackers at the Austria Vienna supporters who threw some of these banned objects back. However, the away team’s fans did not enter the pitch.Referee Thomas Einwaller revealed today that the players and his team of linesmen were willed to continue the match, but police chiefs stressed they could not ensure their safety and the general security for the majority of peaceful fans at the stadium. The decision not to restart the game was announced to the 17,500 fans at the stadium after intense 30-minute negotiations. Asked what consequences the incidents may have, Einwaller said: “Now the last bit of good reputation Austrian football had in the world is ruined.”Vienna police said two officers were injured in the confrontation with the Rapid fans, adding that three rioters were preliminarily put in custody to have their IDs checked.Austrian Football Bundesliga officials are expected to put the match result down as a 3-0 win for Austria Vienna. They could also order Rapid to pay a fine. The Green-Whites may be ordered to play the first few home matches next season in front of empty stands or outside Vienna as a further consequence of yesterday’s occurrences which have been labelled as the “derby disgrace” by sport newspapers.League chiefs are pressurised to make their verdict public shortly as the final round of the current season is set to take place already this Wednesday. Austria Vienna would still have a small chance to win the league for a 24th time. Sturm Graz are considered as favourites to win it after their 2-1 victory against Magna Wiener Neustadt yesterday. SV Ried reached a 2-2 draw against Red Bull Salzburg (RBS), while Wacker Innsbruck beat LASK Linz 1-0. Mattersburg suffered a 1-2 defeat in Kapfenberg.Rapid Vienna President and former Social Democratic (SPÖ) Finance Minister Rudolf Edlinger said yesterday evening he was “deeply affected” by the actions of some violent Rapid fans. “What happened is a tough blow for every true Rapid fan and a disgrace. It is inexcusable,” he told national broadcaster ORF.It is not the first time Rapid hooligans stormed the pitch, but a match between the city rivals never had to end early before. Yesterday’s incidents – already considered as one of the darkest moments in the club’s history – will certainly heave immense pressure on Edlinger and the club board over their decision-making regarding how to deal with unruly supporters.Rapid – the country’s most popular club – pride themselves with having the most faithful and loud support among all clubs. The team are accompanied by large crowds of fans wherever they travel. However, an increasing number of fan clubs have been linked to violent incidents at stadiums and public places such as train stations where they regularly clash with supporters of both Austrian and foreign clubs.Rapid Vienna club bosses banned offenders from attending games in the past only reluctantly, arguing they had to ensure not to fall out with the majority of peaceful members of the most devout supporter groups. It is unclear how many previously offensive Rapid hooligans are kept from attending any games in Austria and if they managed to get into the venues nevertheless. Most identified offenders were only reprimanded or banned for a certain period of time, according to reports.Rapid set up a CCTV surveillance system at their home ground after violent occurrences some years ago to identify and penalise lawbreakers. Now the country’s sport press call on club officials and the police to be more adamant about yesterday’s scandal than they had been in the past.Rapid officials explained today they held talks with police chiefs and fan groups in the weeks leading to the match over fears of unpleasant occurrences if the team were to do badly. Some infamous fan associations made clear on the internet they would not hesitate to “become active” if Rapid do not perform the way they expected them to.The club board stressed yesterday’s incidents have an “immense effect on the club in every regard.” They added: “We will make no compromises in taking steps against the offenders.”The Rapid board also promised to “take a new path” in fan group policies starting next season.The riot may also harm Austria’s economic strength. Reports have it that a high-profile special emissary for trade from China attended the match with Vienna City Hall representatives after having discussed possibilities to strengthen the economic ties between the Austrian capital and his country. The Asian state previously signalled interest in benefiting from Austria’s knowhow regarding eco-friendly infrastructure solutions. China was also about to adapt certain aspects of Austria’s healthcare system.The Austrian Bundesliga table after 35 of 36 rounds:Sturm Graz, 63 pointsRed Bull Salzburg, 60Austria Vienna, 58 (61)SV Ried, 55Rapid Vienna, 50Wacker Innsbruck, 50Magna Wiener Neustadt, 49Kapfenberg, 38SV Mattersburg, 30LASK Linz, 19