Belgrade derby should go ahead - with fans

BELGRADE - The Belgrade derby between Serbia's bitter rivals Red Star and Partizan should go ahead on Saturday with tight security to prevent fan violence, Red Star officials said on Wednesday.

"As ever, it is a high-risk fixture and police should be deployed in numbers to make sure it's an incident-free event," said club spokesman Marko Nikolovski.

"We have reduced the stadium's capacity for this match to make more room for police but we certainly think fans should be allowed into the stadium to watch the action," he said.

Representatives of Red Star, Partizan, the Serbian Football Association and police are to meet on Thursday to hammer out a security plan for the derby, which has a history of crowd trouble.

The meeting, originally set for Wednesday, was pushed back 24 hours amid media speculation that the fixture might be called off after Serbian fans rioted in Italy before and during a Euro 2012 qualifier last week.

Serbia fans attacked their team bus before kick off in Genoa and threw flares at police and the home fans, forcing their Group C qualifier against Italy to be abandoned after six minutes.

The riot came two days after violence at a gay parade in Belgrade, when anti-gay protesters - including football hooligans - clashed with police, set vehicles on fire and caused property damage estimated at one million euros.

On Tuesday, Partizan president Dragan Djuric said the derby should be played either with no fans present or under heavy security measures.

"Given the situation in the last 10 days or so we maintain the safest option would be to play the derby behind closed doors," Djuric told Belgrade's B92 television ahead of Partizan's 2-0 Champions League defeat at Braga.

"We want the match to go ahead but but if it is to be played with fans present in the stadium, we want written guarantees from Red Star, the Serbian FA and police that there will be water-tight security," he said.