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Weekend matches in Italy called off

This weekend's football matches in Serie B and Serie C have been postponed in the wake of Sunday's violence in the Italian league.

The country's football federation (FIGC) announced the decision this evening following a series of meetings during the day.

And Giancarlo Abete, president of the country's football federation (FIGC), has not ruled out the possibility of the postponements continuing after the international break.

'We don't intend to restart all tournaments from Sunday 25,' he said.

'We will have to study, with the Serie A clubs, certain initiatives to be put in place by the 25th - a reflection of the values of football, like `a categorical no to any form of violence'.'

The statement was released on Monday after a series of meetings between the FIGC and l'osservatorio nazionale sulle manifestazione sportive (the national surveillance unit of sporting events).

The unit, an independent body formed to clamp down on football violence, was formed in the wake of the death of policeman Filippo Raciti after violence broke out at the Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo nine months ago.

That, though, as well strict new security measures at soccer stadia, failed to stop the latest scenes of violence in the game.

Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri, a 26-year-old disc jockey, was shot dead by police as they attempted to quell trouble between fans of the Biancoceleste and Juventus at a motorway service station near Arezzo.

News of the shooting prompted violence on the terraces at the game between Atalanta and AC Milan in Bergamo while, later in the day, fans in Rome armed with batons and stones attacked one of the police units in the vicinity of the Stadio Olimpico before raiding the CONI headquarters.

That lead to extensive meetings on Monday, after which Abete confirmed: 'The decision taken by the federation with the consensus of the other organisations present, is for the Serie B and C games scheduled for Sunday to be postponed.'

The surveillance unit also confirmed new measures to combat football hooliganism.

'Fans travelling in groups to away games will only be authorised to do so if there is proof of legitimacy,' read a statement from the body.

'From March 1, all stadia with a capacity of more than 7,500 spectators must have stewards or the punishment will be for the game to be played behind closed doors.

'Hence, the city's head of police can decide whether a game will not start or should be abandoned any time incidents happen, even outside the stadia.

'Violent fan groups will not be allowed to travel to away games and certain restrictions will be fixed at a later stage.'

The independent body is considering introducing club identification cards for fans.

Meanwhile, Abete said Italy's national sides would wear black armbands in memory of Sandri.

Italy will face Scotland in Glasgow in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifying match on Saturday.