Football: Thailand to bar 'ultras' from World Cup matches

Plumes of smoke blanket crowds at Bangkok's Rajamangala stadium after Thailand triumphed over Indonesia in the regional Suzuki Cup final last December.
Plumes of smoke blanket crowds at Bangkok's Rajamangala stadium after Thailand triumphed over Indonesia in the regional Suzuki Cup final last December.PHOTO: REUTERS

Bangkok (AFP) - Thai football authorities said Tuesday they would cancel the tickets of around 800 "ultras" for three World Cup qualifiers after flares were set off at a December international.

The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) was fined US$30,000 (S$42,500) over the incident, which saw plumes of smoke blanket crowds at Bangkok's Rajamangala stadium after the War Elephants triumphed over Indonesia in the regional Suzuki Cup final.

The flares came from a stadium section occupied by Thailand's "ultras" or hardcore fans.

Thai police arrested a man for selling flares and football officials warned that the penalty would be much harsher if it were to happen again in a World Cup qualifier.

In an effort to head-off rowdy behaviour at their three remaining home World Cup qualifiers, the FAT will cancel approximately 800 tickets from the ultras' stronghold in the Bangkok stadium.

"These hardcore fans caused trouble last time so we want this zone to be occupied by students," FAT spokesman Patit Suphaphongs told AFP, saying that the ticket-holders would be reimbursed.

Thailand are due to play Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the UAE in final qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Thai domestic football often has problems with hooliganism and violence after matches.

Last September Thai police resorted to tear gas to break up a brawl that saw fans of two rival Bangkok clubs throw rocks, bottles and at least one petrol bomb outside the stadium during a game.

Authorities around the world have also been trying to curb the rising use of flares, fireworks and smoke bombs by abandoning matches, fining teams and deducting points.

In December 2016, league matches in both Belgium and France were called off after fans fired fireworks and flares at each other.