Swedish Soccer Fans Could Face Charges After Inflight Brawl

Several soccer fans could face air sabotage charges after assaulting a passenger and threatening flight attendants during a rowdy flight following a Swedish league match, police said Monday.

The trouble started late Sunday on a Malmo Aviation plane with about 100 passengers, including fans of Stockholm club Djurgarden who were returning to the capital after an away match in Malmo, in southern Sweden, police and airline officials said.

Stockholm police spokesman Mats Eriksson said five people involved in a brawl were removed from the plane before takeoff but the ruckus continued during the flight and seven others were questioned by police upon arrival at Stockholm's Bromma airport.

Eriksson said the fans were noisy, "didn't sit down, didn't fasten their seat belts and didn't follow directions from the attendants."

One passenger who tried to stop the hooligans was beaten up and taken to hospital after arrival but was not seriously injured, Malmo Aviation spokesman Olof Lofgren said.

He said the pilot was considering interrupting the flight and landing at another airport, but decided to continue to Bromma were police were waiting.

"We transport football supporters a lot, but I've never experienced anything like this," Lofgren said. "It's deplorable that adults act this way."

Eriksson said no one was arrested but some of those involved could face charges of assault, disturbing public order and even air sabotage, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.

Like many European countries, Sweden is struggling to deal with fan violence in connection with soccer matches. Buses and trains are often vandalized as rowdy fans travel across the country.

"It's absolutely more serious when it happens on a plane than a train or a bus," Eriksson said.

Djurgarden lost Sunday's match against Malmo FF 2-1. Djurgarden issued a statement expressing regret about the plane incidents but added it had very little information on what had happened.