Fans entered illegally, says Stars boss

Tuesday February 10 2009

Excited fans brought down the wall at Nairobi's Hope Centre grounds ending a match between AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars recenlty. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN

Excited fans brought down the wall at Nairobi's Hope Centre grounds ending a match between AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars recently. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN 

By CHARLES NYENDE

Over half the estimated 5,000 spectators who attended the abandoned Premier League match between Nairobi City Stars and AFC Leopards at Hope Centre on Sunday, gained access to the venue illegally.

City Stars general manager, Stephen Rigby, on Tuesday said post-match investigations by the club discovered three large holes that fans had created on the wire fence to enter the venue.

“We sold 2,000 official tickets for the match but as was clearly seen there were more than double that number watching the match. Most did not pay to watch what was an exciting match,” Rigby said.

No clear picture

Hundreds of fans collapsed a perimeter fence and invaded the pitch forcing the referee to call off the match with about half an hour remaining. City Stars were leading 1-0 from a 55th minute strike by Ugandan Jimmy Bageye. Rigby said they had hired 10 policemen to compliment their private security arrangements and everything seemed to be fine until the pitch invasion.

“We do not have a clear picture of what exactly happened. But once the fans broke the fence there was not much we could do. In hindsight we probably should have provided more security. Thankfully, no one was hurt,” Rigby said. The City Stars boss said in the two years the venue had hosted KPL matches, there had been no issues over insecurity.

Glaring shortcomings

Rigby, however, said there were issues about the abandoned match that both teams stood to be blamed but that City Stars would wait for the match report and KPL’s communication on the matter before deciding the next step forward.

The KPL secretariat can decide who to award the match based on the reports of the referee and the match commissioner. According to the KPL rules, the team that causes an abandonment should lose the match.

By Tuesday evening, the KPL had received the referee’s report and were waiting for the commissioner’s report before making a decision.

The glaring shortcomings of the smaller venues have once again raised the issue of crowd control and safety at KPL matches. Many venues lack basic facilities to handle large crowds such as segregation fences, multiple entry and exits points and stands.

Meanwhile, Mathare United return their focus on the CAF Champions League after domestic football last weekend. Mathare host Zambia’s Zesco United in a preliminary round, second leg match at Coca Cola National Stadium on Saturday needing to overturn a 0-2 goal deficit to advance.