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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 8, 2007

Celtic fans awaiting San Siro safety solution

The prospect of Celtic playing the 'away' leg of their Champions League last-16 clash against AC Milan at Newcastle has received a lukewarm reception.

According to Peter Rafferty, president of the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters' Clubs, fans will be getting a raw deal unless the match goes ahead in Milan's San Siro stadium.

However Milan were left with only two clear options after the San Siro was closed to supporters for an indefinite period today: either to play behind closed doors at their home stadium, or switch the match to a neutral venue.

Milan chiefs are not keen on playing in an empty stadium and claim Geneva and Newcastle have both offered to host the second leg, which is scheduled for March 7.

But Celtic fans who have already booked flights and accommodation in Italy look set to be out of pocket either way.

Rafferty said: 'The best scenario would be Celtic fans being able to watch the game at the San Siro but it doesn't look as though that's going to happen.

'If the game is moved to another venue, it would be a problem for the thousands of fans who made travel arrangements as soon as the draw was made.

'It wouldn't be very good if they were all left out of pocket.

'Celtic fans have got nothing to do with what has happened but have been caught up in very difficult circumstances.'

If the game is switched to a different venue, St James' Park would be the preferred option of the Scottish champions.

Rafferty added: 'For travel reasons, Newcastle would be the better choice.

'We would have to assume there would be more Celtic fans and that might help us.

'But it will still be a very, very difficult game no matter where it's played.'

A spectator ban meant Rangers played in an empty San Siro in October 2005 when they took on Inter Milan in the group stages of the Champions League.

The Ibrox side lost the game 1-0, although they still qualified for the latter stages of the tournament.

Rafferty insists an empty stadium would benefit no-one if similar sanctions were imposed for their game against AC Milan.

He said: 'There would be no atmosphere. Football is all about supporters.

'It would be difficult for the players and fans of both clubs if the game was played behind closed doors.

'I think both clubs would prefer a full-house.'

All domestic and international matches in Italy were suspended last Friday following the death of police officer Filippo Raciti, however they will resume this weekend, albeit with many games played in empty stadia.

Meanwhile, Scotland's Euro 2008 qualifier against Italy may have to be moved away from Bari after the San Nicola stadium was closed to supporters.

No firm decision has yet been taken on whether to find a new venue for the Group B clash on March 28.

However Bari's stadium is one of the venues which will not be open to spectators this weekend because it is considered to have safety inadequacies.

Only six stadia will be opened to supporters this weekend because they are deemed to have met the security criteria which are now being enforced following the events in Catania that led to the death of policeman Filippo Raciti last Friday.

'The game has been scheduled for Bari but now the stadium is not available for football,' a spokeswoman for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said.

'At the moment the game is still scheduled for Bari but a decision will be taken in the days to come.'

The San Nicola - named after the original Santa Claus, St Nicholas, who is buried in Bari - was seen as state-of-the-art when unveiled for the 1990 World Cup.

A year later it also hosted the European Cup final between Red Star Belgrade and Marseille.

The 58,241-capacity venue was designed by famous architect Renzo Piano.

Senior Italian policeman Antonio Manganelli, whose team drew up the list of which stadia met the right requirements and which did not, admitted the situation remained fluid.

In remarks reported by the federation website www.figc.it, he said: 'We will have other meetings.

'We have given our first assessment and in the next 24 to 48 hours we will make deeper studies to verify the suitability of stadia.'

Only Rome's Stadio Olimpico, Genoa's Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Turin's Stadio Olimpico, Palermo's Stadio Renzo Barbera, Siena's Stadio Artemio Francho and Cagliari's Stadio Sant'Elia have passed the test so far.

Bari is one of 25 other venues which is considered 'at present inadequate', including Milan's famous San Siro which is also now closed to fans.

The SFA asked the Tartan Army to be patient over news about the venue for the Euro 2008 qualifier.

A spokesman said: 'We are still waiting for information on the situation, which is causing concern and frustration for the thousands of Scotland supporters who are planning to visit Italy in March.

'There is considerable speculation but it should be treated with caution, as no firm decisions have been taken.

'We understand that UEFA and the Italian FA will meet in the coming days to discuss the various options if it is decided that Bari cannot host the match.

'As soon as we have any concrete information we will inform our supporters as quickly as possible, but we ask them to be patient as currently we have no meaningful updates to offer.'

SFA officials were forced to postpone a trip to Italy to discuss ticketing and security arrangements until the situation becomes clearer.