Fans sitting at staircase, smuggling laser pointers at AFF Cup semifinal, in violation of safety rules

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) has come under the microscope, yet again, following the hosting of the Malaysia-Thailand Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup first leg semifinal clash last Saturday.

Football fans were spotted sitting on the stairs, while laser beams were pointed at the players and the field, despite the item being prohibited at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.

Such scenes are not new, as overcrowding was evident in the 2014 and 2018 AFF Cup finals held at the same venue.

Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan, a former FAM general-secretary who also served as venue security officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, said the safety regulations about such matters are “very clear”.

“The staircase is meant for evacuation in case of emergencies. They must be clear at all times,” said Dell Akhbar, who was also the former Kuala Lumpur chief of police.

“The onus is on FAM. It cannot be the stadium management (Malaysia Stadium Board). The stadium management owns the stadium but the responsibility for safety during the game is FAM’s. The stadium board doesn’t have stewards. The stewards are supposed to manage all these, to comply with safety regulations.

“I saw the lasers. Laser pointers are banned (from stadiums).”

The National Stadium has a capacity of 87,411. Prior to the match, FAM said 59,000 tickets were sold, while 21,000 seats were cordoned off due to the installation of the stage for the upcoming Jay Chou concert.

It was announced that the official number of spectators who attended the Malaysia-Thailand clash last Saturday was 62,989.

Among those who attended were the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, and several ministers.

Malaysia edged Thailand 1-0 in the match. Both teams will square off in the second leg semifinal tomorrow at Thammasat Stadium, about an hour’s drive from Bangkok.

Concerns are now being raised if fans will continue to occupy the stairs and smuggle in prohibited items, should Malaysia make it to the final.

“The onus is on FAM. FAM must coordinate with the police to ensure that all safety regulations are enforced.

“You need comprehensive body checks at the entrance to ensure no laser pointers are smuggled in. You need additional stewards to ensure that no spectators sit on the stairways,” he added.

Dell Akhbar, in October last year, told Twentytwo13 that there is a need for FAM and the police to carry out regular simulation exercises to ensure that all parties are fully prepared to handle any contingencies that may arise during a football match.

His call came after more than 100 people died following a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on Oct 1, last year.

Dell Akhbar, in his thesis while pursuing his Masters in 2014, analysed 15 stadium tragedies worldwide. He noted that 60 per cent of those were the result of violent spectators and overcrowding that led to a stampede.

He had then said that match organisers in Malaysia seemed to ignore all these tragedies, as some of the stadiums in the country were packed, especially in critical, and evenly-contested matches.

“The overcrowding, more often, has led to spectator violence. Even though Malaysia has never experienced tragedies like those highlighted, we are not far from any of them,” he noted.

Main image (with permission): @NizamArchibald | Twitter