AC Milan are to fight to the very end to ensure the San Siro remains open for their Serie A fixture against Udinese after strict league rules on racism received widespread condemnation.
• Paul: Big decisions ahead
The Rossoneri have been ordered to close the entire stadium after chants of a territorially discriminatory nature were heard during their 3-2 defeat to Juventus onSunday.
Since it is the second time this season Milan’s fans have been found guilty of such discriminatory behaviour, the Lega Serie A’s disciplinary committee sanctioned a full stadium closure, in accordance with its reinforced regulations from the summer.
Those very rules have been ridiculed by the entire footballing movement, including the Lega Serie A’s own president Maurizio Beretta, who admits that, by enforcing them, they "risk giving the keys to the stadiums to the minorities."
Indeed, AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani explained how any small group of fans could willingly interfere at any venue with the intention of getting it closed down by expressing discriminatory chants, even if only meant ironically. On Wednesday, a group of Inter Milan fans appealed to counterparts all down the country to show their support for their own city rivals by ensuring a total closure of all stadiums by expressing discriminatory views in the next round of Serie A games.
Their plea appears to have struck a chord with bitter rivals Juventus showing solidarity with several groups of their fans planning to make defamatory chants during their game at Fiorentina on Oct. 20. Genoa fans are also planning to behave in a way which will see the Stadio Luigi Ferraris closed down if the rules continue to be applied by the letter of the law.
"I won’t say what I really think because I’ve spoken with our solicitor and he’s told me I’ll be banned for life if I do so," said Galliani, who is going to leave the job of escalating the issue to his legal team. "We’re going to take our appeal to every court possible," he continued. "I hope that our stadium will be full for the Udinese game. I hope so."
UEFA have also been asked to intervene since it is part of their Respect campaign to clamp down on racism, even though its president Michel Platini defined it as "Italy’s problem" and urged them to solve it.
"Violent, dangerous and racist fans, those who insult everybody, are in a minority," Platini said while picking up an award in Cuccaro Monferrato, Italy, on Wednesday. "Racism is a social problem which regards politicians, who need to help normal fans come to the stadium. Territorial discrimination is Italy’s problem. It’s the FIGC (Italian FA) who decides, we just give the general disciplinary guidelines.
"It’s no use turning to UEFA for territorial discrimination, it is up to the Italian FA, but I feel it is incorrect to propose taking points off clubs for racist incidents. That way, it would be the players who are punished and not the fans. We need to punish those fans by not letting them into the grounds, by closing part of it if needs be."
Instead, 50,000 Milan fans are being made to pay for the conduct of a minority who, in Turin’s Juventus Stadium last weekend, expressed the now traditional insults based on geography, jibes which have been exchanged between rival fans for many years.
"I think the rules on territorial discrimination were maybe taken too lightly by us all," said Juventus’ general manager Beppe Marotta. "When, on Aug. 5, the sanctions for this behaviour were announced, we underestimated the phenomenon.
"Now we are faced with closed stadiums and anything anybody shouts can be considered as discriminatory, which is very dangerous. We are facing a problem which we underestimated and I hope we can resolve it because racial discrimination is not the same as territorial."