Red Star removing seats for Belgrade derby

Red Star Belgrade will remove all seats from the south tier of their stadium due to safety concerns for the Serbian first division derby with city rivals Partizan on Saturday, club officials said.

Daily newspapers on Wednesday splashed photos of seats being dismantled in Red Star's 55,000-capacity stadium, where rival fans often ripped them up during derbies which have a history of crowd trouble.

Partizan's most passionate fans, who usually occupy the south tier for the Belgrade derby, will now have to stand throughout Saturday's showdown.

"We made the decision after consultations with police and the Serbian interior ministry's request to do this," Red Star secretary general Djordje Stefanovic told Belgrade media.

"Past experience suggests this is the best course of action although we are aware it may not go down too well with the fans," he added.

Seats in the other stands for the home fans will remain in place.

Although the last few Belgrade derbies were incident-free after being played amid tight security, fierce clashes between rivals fans have resulted in several deaths and hundreds of serious injuries down the years.

In 1999, a Red Star fan was killed at Partizan's stadium during the derby after the home supporters launched a flare from their end into the away fans section.

The fixture in October 2000 at Red Star's ground was abandoned after only three minutes, when both sets of fans invaded the pitch while Red Star supporters also attacked and injured several Partizan players.

First division high commissioner Miodrag Jankovic said the stadium's capacity would also be reduced by up to 10 percent to make room for more security stewards.

"This is a normal procedure for a high-risk match but we expect sportsmanlike behaviour by both groups," he said.

Champions and league leaders Partizan, who are chasing a record fifth successive league title, are four points ahead of second-placed Red Star.