The Lega Serie A’s decision to clamp down on racially discriminatory behaviour by fans has been welcomed by Damiano Tommasi, president of the Italian professional footballers’ association (AIC), and Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
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AC Milan are the latest club to be hit by new measures introduced over the summer with a partial stadium closure for their game against Sampdoria at the weekend. Roma, Lazio and Inter Milan have already been hit with similar sanctions and Tommasi believes it is the right way to fight the scourge in Italy’s stadiums and attract genuine fans back to games again.
Speaking to Sky Sport 24, Tommasi said: "In other countries, going to the stadium is a celebration for everybody, but we’re not ready for that in Italy yet. UEFA have taken a very strong stance with very heavy sanctions. Repressive action is not the best solution, but it contributes to having more attention.”
According to Malago, it is up to well-behaved fans to stand up to the troublemakers to help remove them from the stadium and try to reverse a trend of dwindling attendance figures in Italian football.
"Everybody has got to join forces to isolate those who give football, and at the same time Italian sport in general, a bad name," he said. "To hurt a small few, everybody is being made to pay and this is not on, but it is a bit like the problems with the Mafia, the Camorra: if people at a certain stage start to passively accept the way things are, then they automatically become accomplices.
"People have got to distance themselves from certain people, from certain fans because, in the end, we end up with everybody paying. We need the courage to report those who, in all honesty, are not going to the stadium to watch a game, but to offend the opponents."
Malago hopes this mentality change will be a rapid one to prevent more groups of fans from missing out on what they love.
"We’ve gone from telling people they should not chant certain things to zero tolerance," he said. "I hope that, once this first wave of sanctions is over, it will stop, otherwise we will gain a sad record. It’s in everybody’s interest."