Sports writer calls for radical reforms amid turmoil in Turkish football – Türkiye News


The recent shocking assault on referee Halil Umut Meler on the pitch by a former club president and the subsequent series of violent incidents have prompted sports writer Uğur Meleke to advocate for a radical package of measures to address the pervasive chaos and violence in Turkish football.

“The main cause of chaos and violence in Turkish football is not the players, not the coaches, not the referees. The chaos is mostly caused by sports terrorists, the media, or self-appointed administrators,” Meleke wrote in daily Hürriyet on Dec. 21.

Faruk Koca’s resignation from Ankaragücü’s presidency came after he physically assaulted Meler following a contentious 1-1 draw with Çaykur Rizespor. Footage captured Koca and a group of men rushing onto the pitch, assaulting Meler, who was subsequently hospitalized with a small fracture near his eye.

Koca appeared to be incensed at Meler for sending off one of his players and then awarding a stoppage-time goal that allowed visiting Çaykur Rizespor to leave the capital with a 1-1 draw.

The turmoil in Turkish football further intensified on Dec. 19 when Istanbulspor walked off the pitch in protest during their Super Lig game against Trabzonspor. This came as the league resumed after a one-week suspension following Koca’s assault on Meler.

Istanbulspor’s president, Ecmel Faik Sarıalioğlu, ordered the team to withdraw from the pitch in the 74th minute after a disputed refereeing decision in the match.

The controversy was sparked when Trabzonspor went 2-1 ahead with a goal from Paul Onuachu, after Istanbulspor players had earlier claimed they should have had a penalty following a clash between Florian Loshaj and Batista Mendy.

Meleke, responding to the escalating crisis, emphasized the urgent need for comprehensive reforms. He identified the “sudden rise of club executives without the necessary qualifications,” coupled with the lack of infrastructure to handle their roles, as a critical problem.

“My journalist friends from England, Germany and France call me and ask, ‘What is happening to Turkish football?’ with astonishment. I am ashamed, I cannot find an answer,” wrote Meleke.

“I don’t think we can get out of this chaos with a cosmetic operation, painkillers, or fever reducers. If you ask me, Turkish football needs a heart transplant right now.”

The football pundit called for a revision of disciplinary instructions and the urgent amendment of the law on preventing violence and disorder in sports.

“The law must be made deterrent by examining global examples,” he insisted, suggesting a review of the current structure of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), which “mainly consists of the clubs’ contractor or oilman executives,” to allow for merit-based management.

He proposed making former national footballers, referees, coaches and association representatives key stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Meleke further urged the immediate enforcement of the recently emerged law on sports clubs, emphasizing the importance of clubs having company status, financial audits and transparency. According to Meleke, such measures would eliminate club managers “writing $5 million on the balance sheet as pasta expenses.”

The most recent incident showed the chaos has not been limited to the Super Lig, as evidenced by the recent match between Bursaspor and Diyarbekirspor in the third-tier league.

The match descended into chaos, with a double tackle sparking a brawl between players and fans throwing objects onto the pitch. Referees issued red cards to six players from both teams, while the brawl continued in the corridor post-match.

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