THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tough laws make attending games hard

icon nofans14 October ~ In a recent edition of the local newspaper in Bergamo there was a letter from a football fan from Lodi, a town south of Milan. He and two friends wanted tickets for Roma's game against Atalanta but were told that, except for those in possession of fan cards, nobody resident in Lombardia could buy a ticket for the game. Lombardia has 12 provinces and ten million inhabitants. This ruling means that someone can tell those people, more than the population of nearby Switzerland, that they cannot attend a football match because of where they live.

This is an attack on civil liberties that should have no place in a western democracy, as well as being not far short of overt racism or "territorial discrimination", as they call it here. It also illustrates how difficult it now is to get tickets for professional football matches in Italy. You cannot buy a ticket for a stadium with an official capacity of more than 5,000 without proof of identity.

On October 1 I watched AlbinoLeffe's 0-0 draw with Treviso live on TV. Never before have I watched a game on TV that I could have watched in the flesh. I have always scorned those who prefer the comfort of their sofas to the real thing. Mainly it was about buying a ticket. I could go to a ticket agency but a ticket priced at €5 (£4) would actually cost me €8.50. This is still cheap but there is a principle. Why pay 70 per cent above a ticket's face value?

Alternatively, tickets could be bought at the stadium on the evening of the match. In February a friend of mine wanted to see AlbinoLeffe against Pescara. We agreed to meet inside the stadium but he never turned up. I learned afterwards that he had arrived an hour before kick-off and joined a queue of about 50 outside the ticket office. When he had still not reached the front as the half-time whistle was blown, he gave up and went home. The same thing occurred at an August friendly between Atalanta and Ternana.

It takes about three minutes for each ticket to be issued, even for a friendly. You have to be processed by the computer and your ticket has to have your name on it. I knew that if I turned up an hour before kick off and there were 20 people in the queue in front of me, I might be queuing for an hour, possibly in the rain. I decided it wasn't worth it.

In a country where many laws are flouted with impunity, those that involve football fans are applied with a rigidity that borders on sadism. Clubs whose fans never cause any trouble, including AlbinoLeffe, are not rewarded. They are treated as playing in a 25,000-capacity stadium when the only part they open holds fewer than 5,000. The match with Treviso was attended by 1,027 people, of whom 310 were not season ticket holders, and there was virtually no chance of any trouble. Still fans could not just hand over their money and receive a ticket.

While it would be foolish to downplay football's problems it is time that the authorities recognised that the vast majority of fans pose no threat to public order and stopped using them as a convenient scapegoat to cover up their failure to combat some of the far greater evils that blight Italian society. Richard Mason

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