Italian Hooliganism: the State Takes the Offensive

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It may very well be an unique feature, but we might have reached a point in which the State powers are getting the upper hand on organized hooliganism in Italy.

Violence in Catania led to the tragic death of Filippo Raciti in February 2007From the heights of Serie A all the way down to Italy’s lower divisions, Italian hooligans have plagued the beautiful game for quite some time these past years. The frequent acts of violence culminated in tragedy in February 2007, when policeman Filippo Raciti tragically died during a scuffle between Calcio Catania supporters and police officers, following the Serie A derby Catania-Palermo.

Without giving an elaborate analysis of the root and cause of the problem (the discussion could take days), it should be sufficient to say that two problems were identified as the main culprits at the time. The first, was that the specific safety standards required for each football stadium in Italy (as governed by the Pisanu decree of 2005) were being ignored most clubs of Serie A and Serie B. The second was that until recently, supervision of the supporters’ sections during football games was not carried out by stewards (like in the Premiership) but rather by city police, which signficantly contributed in the state of animosity between hardcore supporters and security supervisors.

Following the Raciti incident, new reforms were brought in to end violence in football stadiums, which led to the creation of the Amato decree (decreto Amato). In a nutshell, this new decree reserves very severe punishment to anyone found guilty of carrying pyrotechnic devices, hand-to-hand combat objects (beating sticks, crowbars, baseball bats…), or objects unsafe for the environment (such as spray cans) inside stadium premises. Prison sentences can range from 6 months to 3 years, with fines going from 1,000 to 5,000 Euros. More importantly, the decree permits police officials to preventively body-search all organized supporter groups which are suspect, or have priors of violence.

The Amato Decree - Anti-violence measures in Italy

The effects of the Amato decree seem finally to be bearing fruit: at least 3 games in the new Serie A season so far were or will be played without away supporters, because judged “at high risk” (Genoa-Milan, and recently Roma-Napoli and Fiorentina-Juve). Also just recently, police apprehended 5 Napoli hooligans which are accused of blackmailing the Neapolitan club, while in the past months preventive action of police forces permitted arrests in Bergamo (Lazio supporters were travelling to the Atalanta away game loaded with weapons) and Lucca. Of course, one can’t forget the Juventus-Udinese episode back in September, when a Bianconeri supporter who had thrown an explosive flare onto the field was held still by nearby ‘civil’ Juve fans, and with the help of stadium stewards was carried away by police.

Anti-violence banners in Italian stadiumsIn other words, it seems that ‘real’ supporters, the government, and police forces alike are now forming an united front against hooliganism in Italy.

Currently, police are keeping a close watch on organized supporter groups of Juventus, Torino, Napoli, Roma, Inter, Sampdoria, Genoa, Livorno, and Catania.

Prevention through dialogue is their main means of persuasion, but it shouldn’t be excluded that the Italian police will spring into action again in the upcoming months. A good hope for the future.

Marco Pantanella writes on the mCalcio blog

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