ROME - Serie A fans will need a supporter
identity card to buy home season tickets and follow their team
away next term, the Italian government announced on Tuesday.
The fan card, which had initially sparked protests from
supporters groups, was conceived following a series of violent
incidents at Serie A matches in 2007 when a policeman was killed
after a Sicilian derby and a Lazio fan was shot dead.
Roberto Maroni, minister of the interior, predicted the
'tessera per il tifoso', or members card, would foster a family
atmosphere as he made the removal of fences a priority.
Casual supporters can still buy tickets for one-off matches
without having a fan card but most supporters will need them.
"Before the end of next season we want to take away all the
fences and other barriers that box in fans," he told reporters
after a meeting with football officials. "Stadiums should be
places for celebration and not where you get hit.
"We want to bring true supporters together, those that
support their team and not the ones who come to football to
break the heads of the opposing fans."
Italy's mainly working class 'ultra' fans have traditionally
had considerable influence within clubs with their low-cost
positions behind the goals, the 'curva', often spectacularly
decked out with team colours and elaborate messages.
But the recent spate of violence in and around Serie A's
sometimes crumbling and often half-empty stadiums has led to a
drastic rethink on how the game should attract new fans.
Giancarlo Abete, head of the Italian football federation,
said the removal of barriers from grounds would bring Italy
closer to UEFA's 'philosophy' for European football stadiums.
"We need more functional stadiums and a new rapport with
fans," he said. "Now we need a concerted effort to overcome any
negative perceptions about the supporters card. It will be both
efficient and functional."
The next step, along the lines of English football's
post-Hillsborough transformation following the 1989 stadium
disaster in which 96 fans died, will be the construction of new
'club-owned' stadiums, a measure that has been held up in
"We just need to make sure the bill does not interfere with
TV rights," said Abete. "When it is eventually passed, it will
be a significant act for Italian football. Italy's football
future must involve rebuilding stadiums."
After the heyday of the 1980s and 1990s, Italian clubs can
no longer punch their weight with the top Premier League teams
or Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona in the transfer
market with a corresponding drop in performances on the pitch.
Inter Milan may have won the Champions League in 2010 but no
Serie A side made the last four this year, a trend that means
the Italian team that finishes fourth next season will no longer
compete in Europe's top competition.
Unlike other top European leagues, Serie A clubs rent
stadiums with many - like Inter and AC Milan, Roma and Lazio -
sharing grounds owned and maintained by the city council.
However, next season Juventus, Italy's most popular team,
will become the first club to play at their own home after
constructing a 41,000-seater stadium.
Napoli, who will play Champions League matches at their San
Paolo stadium next season, could be next.
"The San Paolo ground needs an extraordinary amount of work
done - it has not been touched for 60 years," Napoli club owner
Aurelio De Laurentiis told local station Radio Marte.
"I've a project in mind and I've consulted various
architects. I'm ready to assume my responsibility if the city
council takes on theirs."
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