Fans have been banned from attending Lebanese Basketball League games, the country’s sports minister said Monday after a series of brawls erupted Sunday between rival teams and their supporters.
But the final decision over the matter is expected to be issued later Monday after the league is set to meet.
“I have decided, after consultations with Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, to totally ban fans from entering the stadiums until the end of the basketball tournament,” Sports and Youth Minister Abdul-Muttaleb al-Hinawi said in remarks published Monday by local daily As-Safir.
He warned that he “will not allow our stadiums to be turned from arenas of convergence and unity to strife and chaos.”
“There is a lack of culture and sportsmanship spirit in Lebanon,” Hinawi stressed, adding that “political corruption had leaked into the stadiums.”
In a televised interview later Monday, Hinawi said that his ministry would not intervene with regards to Sunday’s scuffle. It will be left to the Lebanese Basketball League to condemn and sanction the incident, he added.
A final decision with regards to allowing audiences to enter the games will be taken during a LBL meeting at 5 p.m.
His remarks came a day after an on-court fight reportedly left five players injured during a game pitting Riyadi against Sagesse.
The melee Sunday at Manara was almost identical to last year’s Game 4 scenes of the final series between both sides at Ghazir, when a fight began between Dewarick Spencer and Loren Woods, sparking similar scenes between Sagesse fans and Riyadi players.
Sunday’s match was abandoned with 40 seconds to go after a huge brawl interrupted the game with Riyadi leading 109-98 in round 14 of the Lebanese Basketball League.
Tempers initially frayed when Riyadi’s Ali Mahmoud and Sagesse’s Terrell Stoglin engaged in a fight in which both players exchanged punches, before several of the home fans stormed the court and attacked Sagesse players.