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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 21:02 GMT
Italian fans face stadium lockout
Palermo supporters standing in glare of burning flare
Increasingly, some fans are said to be attending to fight not watch
Italy's football stadiums will not re-open to fans until existing safety regulations are met, Interior Minister Giuliano Amato has said.

Mr Amato said only nine clubs currently meet those standards, and without swift action all other matches will be played behind closed doors.

All football matches in Italy were suspended indefinitely on Friday after a policeman was killed by rioting fans.

A decision on when matches resume will come after cabinet talks on Wednesday.

"Only those stadia that meet the security norms will re-open to the fans. The other stadia will be used to play in but without fans until they meet guidelines," Mr Amato said after an emergency meeting with Italian football federation officials.

In stadia like that of Catania I will not admit anyone, I am firm on this
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato
"In stadia like that of Catania [where the policeman was killed] I will not admit anyone, I am firm on this."

Mr Amato also outlined tougher controls on supporters.

At the moment, fans who are arrested often escape with a caution, but in the future punishments will be much stronger and those arrested for violence will be processed much more quickly through the courts, within 48 hours.

There will be no block sale of tickets to the so-called "Ultras", the hardcore fans who have been blamed for Friday night's violence, and clubs must end their close relationship with them.

Draft bill

The Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees all sport in Italy, said it would introduce stewards for stadiums, similar to those that control crowds in British stadiums.

Crowds watch as policemen carry the coffin of the policeman Filippo Raciti
Crowds clapped as Mr Raciti's coffin was carried to the cathedral
The cabinet will meet on Wednesday to put the proposals into a draft bill, and the BBC's Christian Fraser in Rome says that unlike previous occasions where legislation has been ignored, these proposals will be introduced immediately.

Our correspondent says football violence has until now been ignored by the government and allowed to fester - in part because the trouble was contained within Italy, unlike with the travelling hooligans from the UK, who took their violence overseas.

But after Friday's events, our correspondent says, many people are calling for the authorities to look to how British clubs have tackled football hooliganism through the creation of fully seated stadiums, greater use of surveillance cameras and intelligence sharing and strict punishments for anyone involved in violence.

Deadly blow

Earlier on Monday, thousands of people gathered at Catania cathedral in Sicily for the funeral of police officer Filippo Raciti.

Mr Raciti was killed outside the city's Massimino stadium following a match against a nearby rival team from Palermo.

Although he was initially believed to have died when a homemade bomb was hurled into his vehicle, a post-mortem revealed that a blow from a blunt object caused the injuries which killed him.

In the stadiums we have young fighters going there, not to see the football matches, but just to start a fight
Football fan Gianna d'Avanzo
A senior Italian football official has said deaths are part of football, a comment condemned as "madness" by Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper on Monday, Antonio Matarrese, the president of Italy's Professional Football League Clubs association, said matches should be allowed to start again.

"Deaths unfortunately form part of this huge movement which is football and which the forces of order are not always able to control," Mr Matarrese was quoted as saying.

"Football should never be stopped. It's the number one rule: football is the industry... do you think there's an industry that would close its factories and not know when they're going to reopen?"

'Unacceptable' situation

But Mr Prodi, speaking to reporters on a trip to Luxembourg, said such a view was "unacceptable".

"I read the unacceptable comments this morning about what happened as if it were something that is inevitable. It's madness," he said.

"It is unacceptable that this incident be considered normal. The Italian government will take all the necessary measures."

Gianna d'Avanzo, a supporter of Inter Milan football club, told the BBC that the Italian game was falling foul of groups of hooligans who attended matches simply to fight.

"In the stadiums we have young fighters going there, not to see the football matches, but just to start a fight. So the problem is not with all the supporters but with just a part of it, quite violent people, they're just fanatics and mainly young fascists, willing to fight," he said.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes outside the police officer's funeral



SEE ALSO
Italy to debate football future
05 Feb 07 |  Football
Italian league halted by violence
02 Feb 07 |  Football
Italian football's tangled web
25 Jul 06 |  Europe



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