Isolate hooligans or risk ban

2007-02-04 16:41

Rome - Stadiums which fail to adopt tougher anti-hooliganism measures could be banned from staging matches next season, Italy's top sporting body said on Sunday following the death of a policeman on Friday.

At an emergency meeting after all soccer in Italy had been suspended indefinitely the Italian Olympic Committee (Coni), also urged clubs to break off all relations with violent fans.

Coni and soccer officials said they would wait until after a meeting with the government on Monday before deciding how long the suspension would last.

Luca Pancalli, commissioner of the Italian socer federation, said the delay was also a sign of respect for Filippo Raciti, whose funeral is scheduled for Monday in Sicily.

"I will not budge from my decision to suspend the championship until tomorrow after I have discussed important matters with the government. Any decision will in any case be delayed until after the funeral," he said.

All soccer matches from children's leagues to the national team's friendly against Romania on Wednesday have been cancelled while the sporting authorities and politicians consider the new measures.

Coni president Gianni Petrucci told a news conference after the meeting that clubs whose stadiums do not adopt stricter anti-hooligan measures, including greater ticket controls and more closed circuit cameras, would not be able to host games.

He said they would have to implement the changes by the start of the next season.

The meeting, which was less conclusive than some commentators had wanted, followed national outrage over the death of Raciti in the Sicilian city of Catania at a derby with arch-rivals Palermo on Friday night.

Although brawls at Italian stadiums are common, the riots shocked a nation still basking in the glow of its World Cup victory last year.

"If the attack was extraordinary, the response has to be extraordinary as well," Interior Minister Giuliano Amato told La Repubblica newspaper. "The fans are risking the possibility of never seeing soccer again - of being without soccer forever, with stadiums empty and barred."

Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who has promised radical measures, will meet top ministers on Monday to formulate new measures and Amato will address Parliament on Tuesday.

Blamed on radical football supporters

After the game in Catania, hooded fans chased police vans and hurled flares and fireworks, one of which exploded in the face of the 38-year-old Raciti, who died in hospital. More than 70 people were injured.

Much of the violence is blamed on radical football supporters called "ultras" who have resisted any measures to control their behaviour.

The shock went far beyond Sicily.

A day after the riots, anti-police graffiti was scrawled on walls as far north as Livorno, near the border with France.

One called for the deaths of more policemen and another used the English acronym ACAB, meaning "All Cops Are Bastards".

Raciti was the 13th person to be killed in or around Italy's football stadiums since 1962.

The last fatality at a First Division match was in 1995 when a Genoa fan was stabbed to death before a game against AC Milan. The championship was suspended for day at the time.

In a sign of mourning, city-wide festivities for the feast of Catania's patron Saint Agatha were scaled down. Many residents had called for the whole feast to be scrapped.