The matter came to light when hooligans that attach themselves to the club attacked a coach with supporters of rival Antwerp club Beerschot in Mortsel (Antwerp Province) in the summer of 2017. During the investigation police discovered videos and photos of organised clashes, so called ‘free fights’.
It emerged that hard core supporters of R. Antwerp FC agreed to meet hooligans from rival clubs at remote spots in order to fight. An equal number of hooligans from each team take part for a length of time agreed beforehand.
All participants took part voluntarily and in the knowledge that they might get hurt. Prosecutors say the fights are illegal and if found guilty participants face punishment. Sixty-six defendants face charges of premeditated grievous bodily harm, membership of a gang or illegal weapons’ possession.
The trial should last for four days. Defendants appear in groups of around fifteen in order to allow social distancing. The verdict is expected at a later date.
A similar trial involving twenty-four fans linked to Beerschot football club is also planned.
Photos in this article from specialised Facebook pages show that football hooligans from at home and abroad take part in ‘free fights’.