Consequences dire if Italy fails to combat violence

MILAN - Two serious episodes of football-related violence in as many weeks have laid bare Italy's difficulties in combating a problem which could continue to scare away sponsors and organisers of big tournaments.

Last week's Euro qualifier between Italy and Serbia in Genoa was abandoned after six minutes when Italian authorities failed to stop away fans throwing flares while trouble in Naples marred Napoli's 0-0 Europa League draw with Liverpool on Thursday.

Italy has worked hard to reduce violence since a policeman was killed by a rioting fan in Sicily in 2007. But after missing out on hosting Euro 2012 and 2016 partly because of the problem their chances of holding a big tournament are bleak.

"Offering a risk-free environment is extraordinarily important. They won't host anything for a long time," Patrick Nally, co-founder of sports marketing firm West Nally and a key advisor to FIFA, told Reuters.

"The whole violence issue comes and goes but now it's an issue that needs to be sorted again."

Serbian fans caused the trouble in Genoa but their federation have criticised the policing of the event, with Italian authorities acknowledging there was a break down in intelligence between the two nations.

Officials said they were not aware of the risk posed by Serbian fans despite a long hooligan problem there.

UEFA is due to rule on the Genoa violence at the end of next week with Italy also expecting some sort of sanction despite precedent suggesting they will be handed a 3-0 win over Serbia.


Italy has been battling its own hooligan element for years and a crackdown since 2007 has been partly successful and moves are afoot to modernise ageing stadiums.

A new anti-hooligan body was set up and away travel to matches is strictly controlled, although Interior Minister Roberto Maroni's plan to make fans carry an electronic card which tracks movement has met opposition from supporters.

The violence in Naples, where three Liverpool fans were hurt on the night before the game and there was trouble before kick-off, all happened away from the ground making policing awkward.

Wednesday's perpetrators, who reports say were carrying knifes and bats, were not necessarily Napoli fans and were just youths looking for a fight -- as occasionally also happens outside the Rome's Olimpico Stadium which successfully hosted the 2009 Champions League final.

Clashes between police and demonstrators over a Naples garbage crisis have also erupted this week.

The fact the game was arguably Napoli's most glamorous encounter in nearly two decades increased the over-excitement of the community while English and Liverpool fans are still remembered for the hooliganism of the 1980s by many Italians.

"Our fans did not come here to get drunk but to watch the game," Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson told reporters. "Instead they've been ambushed and luckily nothing tragic happened."