Hooliganism should be a sport, says top Russian lawmaker

Russian Liberal Democratic party faction leader in the state Duma Igor Lebedev, pictured in December 2011, says his country could even be a pioneer in the new "sport" of football fan hooliganism

Football hooliganism should be recognised as a sport with a set of written rules, said a top Russian politician Sunday who even described violent fans as "cordial supporters".

Igor Lebedev, the deputy speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, and a member of the executive board of the Russian Football Union (RFU), says his country could even be a pioneer in the new "sport".

Hooliganism would be a team competition, he said, describing it as "draka" -- the Russian word for the fight.

"If visiting fans, for example, begin picking fights they receive an answer -- your challenge's accepted. Let's meet at the stadium at the set time. You can acquaint yourselves with the rules on our site," Lebedev wrote on his party's website.

Lebedev's comments come just over a year away from the 2018 World Cup finals which will be hosted by Russia with 12 venues in 11 cities.

The 44-year-old insisted that Russian fans who fought running battles, especially with their English rivals at last year's European championships in France, are the victims of bad press.

"They're not hooligans," he added. "First of all they cordially support their clubs.

"Yes, sometimes they fight but only against the other fans, they never touch the civilian population."

Last month the BBC aired a documentary "Russia's Hooligan Army" showing Russian fans predicting clashes between supporters -- especially targeting English fans at next year's World Cup.

But Russian authorities slammed the BBC hooliganism claims saying that Russia gave security guarantees that were confirmed by the state and will meet its obligations.