Why Capello is right about Italian Ultras

November 4, 2009

Fabio Capello recently told the world of his ‘sadness’ at the rule of Ultras in Italian football.

Now I’ve often aired my concerns at the state of the English game. I get very frustrated at ticket prices and ridiculous wages, but one major positive since the Premier League era came around is safer grounds.

Football violence, at least inside stadiums, has greatly diminished. Because it is now so rare, the media make a massive deal out of any trouble, which is why the recent West Ham-Millwall violence received thousands of column inches. Of course, the increase in ticket prices (my great hate) is partly responsible for this, as clubs have reached out to a very different, “family-friendly” (how it can be family friendly when it costs so much to take kids to grounds is beyond me!) clientele in order to force the hooligans out. This is not to say that hooliganism has vanished from the English game, as that would be very naive of me. ‘Firms’ still exist, and probably always will, but they exist outside of grounds.

However, Italy is a very different animal.

In the 1990s, Italian football was the benchmark for the rest of the world. All the world’s greatest players (and Ian Rush) aimed for Serie A, in much the same way they now aim for the Premier League or La Liga. However, despite the fact the Italian game was swimming in Lira, the clubs failed to invest in infrastructure and crowd trouble was a weekly occurence. It could certainly be argued that the Italian authorities did not do enough to combat these Ultra groups.

Eventually, ordinary fans stopped going to games, which were then played in half empty grounds. This apparent lack-of-interest led to billionaire owners pulling out of their clubs and the TV deals collapsed. As a result, Serie A became an inferior ‘product’ and lost its place at the top of the European game. It now lags behind both the Premier League and La Liga, while the Bundesliga is in its slip-stream, ready to pass. Even now, Italian authorities still do not seem to be taking enough action against Ultras, and riots inside the outdated Italian stadia are commonplace. Indeed, I fear for every Fulham fan travelling to Rome for Thursday’s Europa League game.

Politically, Italy is a frightening place. Silvio Berlusconi is perhaps the most corrupt man in the Western World, and Fascism bubbles very close to the surface in Italian culture. This is taken into football, and Lazio in particular have a scary bunch of fans.

But what is needed in Italian football? For a start, massive investment. Stadia needs to be brought up to the standard of the rest of the top leagues in Europe, and the Italian Police need to take more action in dealing with Ultra groups. That doesn’t mean continue beating them to a pulp, as we regularly witness on European nights, but by making arrests and working with clubs to issue bans.

It is also vital that FIFA and UEFA get involved in the process of rebuilding Serie A. However, their levels of hypocrisy know no bounds, and the threat of an Italian ban from European competition will never happen, no matter how many riots, or deaths, occur.

FIFA and UEFA demonstrate capitalism at its worst, clearly demonstrating money matters more than safety. Indeed, Platini is a Juventus man through-and-through, and the prospect of European football without his beloved Serie A sides is incomprehensible, even if they are falling apart.

Until he loses the election and UEFA act against the Italian clubs, we can only watch in horror as the ‘fans’ tear each other apart. And as a lover of the beautiful game, that will always bring a tear to my eye.

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One Response to “Why Capello is right about Italian Ultras”

  1. richwilcock Says:

    I have always thought that Serie A is a marvellous league to watch, I still do, but the problems cannot be ignored. They simply got lazy and complacent at the top of the tree and now find themselves languishing.

    You’re right. Infrastructure is one of the problems. I went to the Artemio Franchi in Florence, home of Fiorentina and was utterly shocked at the state of the Stadium, this from a team which finished 4th in Serie A that season. I do think TV has a major part to play in this. They havn’t realised the potential of TV and the revunue streams that it attracts, and that has left them shockingly behind. It does seem we were a decade ahead when it came to capitilising on the potential of TV.

    And it leaves you with the conumdrum of who is watching Serie A? It isn’t particularly on TV, not to a great scale, nobody wants to go to the stadiums to watch it and nobody it seems is bothered about catching up with it online.

    It’s an interesting point you make on the ban. It is no secret that he doesnt like “Ze English” but UEFA cannot function without the likes of the Manchester United’s or the Liverpools, simply because of they money it makes. But what money are the Serie A teams bringing in? Surely a ban isn’t beyond the realms of possibility?


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