Serbian trio sanctioned over crowd trouble

Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade, their city rivals Rad and first division debutants Novi Pazar have been punished for crowd trouble after a week littered with fresh football violence in the country.

The Serbian Football Association (FSS) on Friday ordered Partizan and Rad to play their next home games behind closed doors after their fans rioted in last Saturday's league matches.

Partizan fans pelted their new coach Avram Grant with lighters and also invaded the pitch and attacked the team's teenage striker Lazar Markovic after last Saturday's 0-0 home draw with Sloboda Sevojno.

Rad fans hurled rocks and flares the same day at rival supporters during their home goalless draw with Novi Pazar, whose faithful retaliated and then caused trouble in Wednesday's 2-1 defeat by visiting Vojvodina Novi Sad.

Partizan and Rad have also been fined 500,000 dinars ($5,918) each, a statement said, while Novi Pazar's stadium has been closed pending a final decision on whether they must play matches without fans.

The club were also ordered not to allocate tickets for their fans for the next four away games.

The violence was the worst possible interlude to UEFA President Michel Platini's visit to Serbia, where he attended a conference organised by the Council of Europe to discuss the best course of action to crush sports violence and match-fixing.

Platini also met with top FSS officials, who on Friday named a football pitch after him in the national team's training base in Belgrade's suburb of Stara Pazova.

Serbia's football authorities and their ability to combat hooliganism will again be tested on Wednesday, when Partizan and bitter city foes Red Star meet in the first leg of their cup semi-final.

The fixture has a history of crowd trouble and very few derbies have been incident-free in the last two decades, with fighting between rival fans resulting in several deaths and hundreds if not thousands of serious injuries down the years.