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Sunderland's August hoodoo

By ESPN Staff

AC Milan fans banned from Genoa match

MILAN, Aug 22 (Reuters) - AC Milan fans will be banned from attending Sunday's Serie A opener at promoted Genoa because of fears of violence, officials said on Wednesday.

The committee for security and public order in Genoa decided the match was too high risk because of worries that some supporters would seek revenge for the fatal stabbing of a Genoa fan at a match between the two sides in 1995.

'Having to take this decision after 12 years is a defeat. However, there have been worrying signs and crazy messages, many, not only written on walls,' Giuseppe Romano, Genoa's civil head of security, told reporters.

Italy has boosted stadium security and tried to crack down on soccer violence after a policeman was killed during riots outside a top-flight match in Catania in February.

The championship was briefly suspended following the death and some matches were played behind closed doors while away fans were banned at other games.

This season was expected to start with no restrictions but incidents before last week's Champions League third round qualifier between Lazio and Dinamo Bucharest have heightened awareness of the problem.

Genoa are back in Serie A for the first time since 1995 and their president Enrico Preziosi had earlier begged the authorities to allow AC Milan fans into his club's stadium.

'To ban access to the stadium for Milan fans would be a failure,' Preziosi told Italian media on Wednesday.

Players also wanted a fresh start.

'It would be awful if we started in this way for the first match of the season,' Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso told reporters.

'The best thing for everybody is that all the fans can participate in a soccer match.'

The Genoa stadium will host Italy's Euro 2008 qualifying Group B clash with Georgia in October.