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The Italian fans' ID card system is still not working

Violence remains and supporters alienated

icon nofans18 December ~ The story of the solitary Udinese fan in the away end at a recent Serie A fixture with Sampdoria has been shared as a heart-warming story. Not everybody agrees, arguing that it highlights Italian football's continuing problems. Falling attendances are attributed to a range of factors – a lack of quality on the field, saturating pay-per-view TV coverage, dilapidated stadiums, negative feelings engendered by recent match-fixing scandals and the continuing impact of the Tessera del tifoso (fans' ID card) and the complicated process of buying tickets.

In order to buy a ticket for the away end at any match in Italy's professional divisions, you need to be in possession of this ID card, which records all your personal details. Many fans are firmly against this apparent abuse of civil liberties and have refused to sign up to the scheme. A negative side-effect is that some of the more hardcore element are still travelling to away games but not having the Tessera have no choice but to buy tickets for designated "home" sections. It is unlikely that Arrigo Brovedani was the only Udinese supporter in the stadium in Genoa – on watching the highlights there is definitely more than one voice cheering Udinese's goals in their 2-0 victory.     

Not surprisingly, this incursion of away supporters into home-only areas has led to several unpleasant incidents inside stadiums. In 2010 I witnessed a near-riot, swiftly stopped by stewards, when Fiorentina supporters realised there were a large number of visiting Lazio fans alongside them. This of course is not always the case – I was at the Coppa Italia match between AC Milan and Reggina, who were cheered on by a group of around 200 fans in one of the home sections standing happily alongside the locals with no issues. This shows that some fans can be trusted to behave themselves.

As well as the recent assault on Tottenham fans drinking in a bar in Rome, there have been a number of other violent episodes outside stadiums this season. Fans of Hellas Verona, whose reputation often precedes them, were involved in skirmishes in Palermo and came under attack on arrival at Brescia's ground (an incident leading to a number of arrests and injuries to police officers). Hooligans who follow Lombardian fourth-tier outfit Pro Patria have had several evidently pre-arranged confrontations well away from stadiums this year. All this serves to prove is that people who want to engage in disorder will find a way of doing so and the introduction of the ID card has done little to stop violence happening outside the segregated control of stadium interiors.

When the debates over what to do about issues of violence and the power of the ultras are raging, the term modello inglese (English model) is frequently used. Preventative policing seems to have been successful in the UK, with violence down and crowds holding up. The current Italian approach appears to be having the opposite effect. The BBC website article on the lone Udinese supporter concludes by telling us that "He has been invited to attend its next home match on Saturday". What it fails to add is that he refused the invitation, not wanting to draw further attention to himself and the situation. He is clearly not the only one in Italian football circles currently feeling embarrassed. Joe Haining

On the subject...

Comment on 18-12-2012 13:44:18 by Coral #742415
It is an interesting point that has been widely missed as a cheery laugh at poor old Serie A. One thing that griped me was the explainations given, that there is football on telly and no one wants to miss the 3 or 4 hours of punditary (I can only imagine not Alan Shearer), and it is nearly 4 hours to travel. Why is is always assumed that fans of a team all live within a stone's throw of the home ground? The bloke himself had not come from near Udinese in the first place. It covers up the real reasons for a serious issue that is a little more than just cultural.
Comment on 18-12-2012 14:27:36 by Jobi1 #742432
Just read confirmation that there was indeed a group of between 10 and 20 Udinese ultras without the Tessera in a home section. Of course that wouldn't make a funny story though...
Comment on 18-12-2012 15:31:02 by Coral #742466
Indeed it has sparked debate on when were you the only person in the away end etc with chortles about Plymouth v Hartlepool on a Wednesday night in Winter.
I remember being at a Leicester Millwall game around about 2003 when there were no away fans because they had been banned by police. Chortle.
Comment on 18-12-2012 18:23:33 by geobra #742565
I agree that the tessera del tifoso hasn't really solved anything, while causing other problems that didn't exist before (see below). This evening, fog permitting, 8000 Verona fans will descend on San Siro for the Coppa Italia game v Inter. It is being billed as a 'high risk' match, so we shall see, if the fog doesn't intervene.

As all other games in Bergamo province were called off on Sunday, I went to see AlbinoLeffe v Como in Lega Pro Prima Divisione. With horror stories of fans arriving an hour before the start and still queueing for a ticket as the game kicked off, I arrived 90 minutes before the 2.30 start. (That's why I would have gone to a non-professional game if any had been on). I got my ticket, though it took about 10 minutes because the printer broke down, and then repaired to a bar for a capuccino and a perusal of the day's papers.

For the record, the match 'attracted' a 'crowd' of 1056, and all but the first 20 minutes were played in fairly thick fog, thick enough for me not to realise till I got home that AlbinoLeffe had had a player sent off half an hour from the end, though they still won 3-1.
Comment on 18-12-2012 18:51:04 by Vedere #742582
Good article Joe.

When I was at the derby last year there were plenty of Inter fans in the Milan end, not a bother. Last time I was in the curve sud and didn't see any in there, as you'd expect. However, it does amaze me that my team in the UK (League one) brings around the 1000 mark to a lot of away games and more for the big ones.

As an aside, have you found any decent pubs in Milan showing the footy? The only one I know of is 442.
Comment on 18-12-2012 22:43:53 by Jobi1 #742688
I'm in 442 most weekends! There are plenty of other pubs around town that have football on though - The Football, in via Torino being an obvious one. Friends, near Porta Nuova is quite popular for it too.
Comment on 19-12-2012 08:54:42 by geobra #742749
Inter v Verona was played,(Inter won 2-0) and there was trouble outside the ground involving Verona supporters. In fact, tear gas fumes from outside got into the stadium and the referee stopped the game for about three minutes as players and officials suffered breathing problems.

@jobi1

Are you still following Serie D, Girone B? Have you noticed who's top at the moment? Pontisola. Though I support them, I'm half praying that they won't go up because it will lead to all the problems you outline in your article, plus I doubt whether their stadium would pass muster at the moment.
It's a pity Pro Sesto are so far behind - they have everything in place.

And for those of a statistical bent, here is an amazing fact. Of their last 22 away league games, Pontisola have won 20 and drawn 1. That must be something like a world record in football at what one might call 'senior' level.
Comment on 19-12-2012 17:33:22 by Jobi1 #742964
Must confess I haven't been to a game yet this season, a lot of which has to do with Pro Sesto switching a lot of games to Saturdays when I have other things to do (like go to 442 for a pint), but I have been keeping an eye on it. What do you think the solution for Pontisola would be? Is there a sensible ground-sharing option nearby? I'll have to get over for a game in the new year while it's still easy!
Comment on 19-12-2012 17:56:47 by geobra #742976
@ jobi1

Ever since I came here, in pre-Premiership 1987, Pro Sesto have traditionally nearly always played on a Saturday, though perhaps they didn't in Promozione and Eccellenza. Originally it was to avoid clashing with Inter and Milan on Sunday afternoon, but that hardly seems relevant now.

As for Pontisola, I don't think that even they know what they will do if they are (un)lucky enough to be promoted. There's no viable ground-sharing option nearby.

Eventual promotion is going to be a real poisoned chalice because in 2013-2014 there will be 9 relegations out of 18 in the two groups of Seconda Divisione. So for many teams the season will be over by or even before Christmas, and newly promoted sides are very likely to be among them.

Pontisola v Pro Sesto - February 24th. I'll only be there if Atalanta v Roma is switched from Sunday afternoon, or if Pro Sesto persuade Pontisola to play on Saturday.

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