The current Egyptian Premier Soccer League has been cancelled due to deadly riots in Port Said that killed 74 people and injured hundreds more on Feb. 1. Several more people were also killed during protests in the days following the riot. The league will be replaced with an 18-team tournament known as the Martyrs’ Cup which will feature a series of exhibition games played in empty stadiums. This is the 10th time the Egyptian soccer league has been cancelled for various reasons dating back to 1951/52. The last time the league was shut down was in 1990/91.

Azmi Megahed of the EFA (Egyptian Football association), said there’s not enough time to play out the remainder of the season anyway the tournaments will be played instead. The announcement was met with disappointment from many clubs as they said the teams have obligations to fulfil to sponsors and advertisers. The franchises also depend on television broadcasting revenues as well as money from ticket sales to survive.

Along with cancelling the league, the host team that was playing when the deadly riot took place, Port Said’s Al-Masry, has been excluded from the tournaments. The riot took place when Al-Masry was playing Al-Ahly in an Egyptian Premier League game. As soon as the game ended thousands of Port Said hooligans invaded the field and threw rocks and bottles at Al-Ahly supporters. Many fans were suffocated and others stabbed to death.

Some officials said the incident in Port Said was definitely a tragedy however life has to go on. They claimed that many peoples’ livelihood depends on the Premier League and they won’t be able to make a living if the games are cancelled. It’s estimated that the league will lose a total of $200 million if it’s shut down. In addition, six different Egyptian sports television channels will be affected greatly by the decision since Premier League soccer is their major source of advertising revenue.

However, some people such as ex-EFA president Essam Abdel-Moneim said the league should be cancelled in light of the violence that took place. He said clubs and fans deserve the punishment and investigations into the riot haven’t even been concluded. In addition, many fans feel that soccer violence is getting out of hand all over the world, not just in Egypt, and they don’t care if the league ever plays another game.

Amer Hussein of the EFA said the Martyrs’ Cup will allow the Egyptian teams to keep in shape and practice their skills. He said they’ll still be able to prepare and play on African tournaments and the Egypt's Cup. But he stated that punishment must be dished out and the law has to be applied properly to make sure there are no more violent incidents in the future. He said the winner of the Martyrs’ Cup tournament will also have the honor of representing Egypt in the Arab Championships.

The Martyrs’ Cup is scheduled to run until May 18 and will be followed by the Egypt's Cup which runs until June 30. Depending on the outcome of the investigation to the deadly Port Said riot, the next Premier League is due to begin in mid-August.

Written by Ian Palmer via FeedCrossing, Content News Source

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