Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Step in the Right Direction

The news that Lazio will be made to play two games behind closed doors suggests that football's top table may finally be catching up with the rest of us, when it comes to dealing with racism.

Following the fourth incident this season of racism by their fans, UEFA have ordered the Italian club to play their next two competitive European games behind closed doors. (As well as a €40,000 fine, which is pretty much irrelevant in this case.) The first game will be their Europa League last-16 tie against Stuttgart on March 14.

As we know, this wasn't the first time or a solitary incident involving a handful of people. There had been three previous occasions where supporters actions had drawn negative attention to the club. There were issues both home and away against Tottenham, as well as when they hosted Maribor in the group stages. The straw that broke the camels back came against Borussia Monchengladbach when around 300 fans were observed making Nazi salutes.

I'm not going to suggest this is a racist club because many clubs - including those in England - have bigots posing as fans. But the fact that there were that many problems in such a short space of time, must raise questions for those at the helm of the club. This is not a new problem or a first offence, which suggests whatever has been tried to stop it and them hasn't worked.

So for Claudio Lotito to call the punishment 'abnormal and absured'; is frankly naive and well, absurd.

UEFA have a responsibility to all of us, not the feelings of any individual club. And for once, they appear to be acting on behalf of the 'us'.

The two lost match day's will lose the club millions, a significant amount for a top flight club in today's economic climate.

As owner/president Lotito told RaiSport: "It will seriously damage the club economically and stop the fans from participating in the event.

"We cannot as a club be penalised for the mistakes of a small minority."

But that where he's wrong, the authorities can and they have too. Because it is the only way the idiots will learn, by being restricted and prevented from doing what they want.

Of course it's unfortunate for the thousands of decent fans. But if it's the only way to ensure a club deals with the scum, then the end will justify the means.

The club already had a suspended sentence hanging over their head, so in their continual fight to regain some credibility UEFA had to act. And rightly did.

Hopefully this will be the precedent for club's being punished. It may take time, but it can only help and encourage club's to rid their stadiums of racists and racist action.

Which is why they've hit Lazio where all businesses feel it most, in their pocket.

The club had already been warned, which means their fans had already been warned. Yet the latter chose to continue with their behaviour, so rightly the club has now been punished for that.

In his interview with RaiSport, the owner adds: "Everyone knows how much we did to prevent this sort of thing from happening."

Well, whatever you did Mr Lotito, it wasn't enough. Maybe now everyone will do a little bit more.


  1. So what do you suggest the club do that they haven't already done to prevent this? It's all very well saying that their measures didn't work but you seem to have no suggestions to counter 300 idiots doing Nazi salutes. I've stood close to men shouting racist comments at players at Walsall FC in the lower leagues - the club has no control over this other than retrospective action, i.e. chucking them out and banning them.
    Lazio are an easy target for this kind of comment from people like yourself who wish to solidify your credentials as politically "sound" whilst offering nothing positive as a solution.

  2. Thank you for your comment.

    If you could show me what the club has actually done to decrease these events, your point would have more validity. Also, if it was a one-off occurrence I may have more sympathy. As it wasn't, I don't.

    Can I ask what you did when you heard racist abuse? Did you report them - during or after the game? Did you ask them to stop? Or did you do nothing? Apologies, but I refuse to stand by and do or say nothing.

    Racism and bigotry is a blight on society and it is not about me being 'politically sound', it is about me wanting people to be able to go about their business without persecution. A right we all deserve.

  3. I'm far too old to take on younger hotheads who are making racist comments and I'm not sure why you would expect me to do that - I'm not the police or a paid steward and it's very easy for you (from your position of strength behind a keyboard) to say you would have done this and by implication say I'm approving of their message by not challenging bigger and younger men.
    I've been to Lazio games in the past and there is intense security at the stadium but Italian fans have ways of circumventing this i.e the ban of flares is widely ignored and many of the club's more inflammatory political banners have been confiscated but re-appear at later games.
    Rome is split between Roma (traditionally a communist supporting club) and Lazio (politically right wing but not Nazi's or fascists) and some of the club's element take this to extremes as do the players (Di Canio, an admitted fascist supporter but widely admired by the UK media).
    Punishing the club(s) not the individual(s) is wrong and that is illustrated in England by the introduction of fences in the 80's after Luton v Millwall which proved a total disaster to football in the country and resulted in deaths. The whole should never be punished for the actions of a few in principle, whether that's racist abuse or hooliganism.
    Any before you accuse me of being of a similar ilk to these Lazio supporters, my political leanings are more in sympathy with Roma.

  4. I would never encourage anyone to risk their safety. But you could tell a Steward on your way out.

    I go to matches, as you do. Both as a fan and as a journalist, so I understand it is not always a good idea to confront these people. But I would hope that the majority would at least attempt to tell the club, in the safest possible way.

    But nothing is changing, so something has to be done. Look at Inter - again - v Spurs on Thursday night. Things are not getting better, so maybe it is the right for them to implement bans and try something different.

    I wasn't going to mentions your politics.