A Russian politician has said football hooliganism should be legalised and turned into a spectator sport ahead of next year's World Cup finals.
Igor Lebedev, who sits in the Russian parliament and is also on the board of the Russian Football Union, proposed a contentious solution to the country's hooliganism problem by advocating organised brawls between teams of 20 fighters in an arena where people could go to watch.
In a statement on the website of the nationalist LDPR party, Mr Lebedev - who praised Russian fans for their role in violence that broke out in Marseille at Euro 2016 - claimed such a move "could turn fans' aggression in a peaceful direction".
Four days before Manchester United play FC Rostov in a Europa League tie in the port city, Mr Lebedev also claimed it would serve as an "example" to English fans, whom he characterised as poor fighters and ill-disciplined louts. "Russia would be a pioneer in a new sport," he said. "English fans arrive, for example, and start picking fights. And they get the answer - challenge accepted. A meeting in a stadium at a set time."
Mr Lebedev also claimed such organised fights could attract crowds of thousands but insisted travelling fans had no reason to fear for their safety at next year's World Cup.
Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, has already said he is "not at all concerned" by the threat of hooliganism overshadowing the World Cup, but a BBC documentary that aired last month revealed that Russian hooligan gangs were planning a "festival of violence" at the tournament. (© Daily Telegraph London)