Thursday, 12 April 2007

Gov: Stewards to replace police inside stadia

Interior Minister Giuliano Amato has vowed there will be no repeat of the violence which marred Roma's Champions League quarter-final first leg win against Manchester United last week.

The Italian government today announced plans to use stewards to take charge of security in football stadia at all Serie A and B matches next season, with police left to control fans outside the ground.

"We are going to make sure this will not happen again," Amato told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We must look at these events in fair circumstances, without defending the Italian or English supporters.

"The new protocol is based on the presence of the steward in the stadium, a fundamental point in keeping order which other countries already use.

"With that, we will be capable of distributing the control of the public. The police must exclusively concern themselves with what happens outside the stadium, while the inside will be in the hands of the stewards, nobody else."

Stadiums in Italy already have stewards but Amato said that this "protocol of understanding" commits sporting authorities to give stewards the training they need to carry out the security tasks now handled by police.

Amato said the plan would eventually make police "superfluous", and compared it to English-style security. It was not clear how long it would take for police to be completely eliminated from stadiums. "I have an appreciation for the English model. We ourselves are heading in that direction and this agreement is a testament to that," Amato told reporters.

At least 18 fans were injured in clashes between police and rival fans at last week's Champions League quarter-final first leg in Rome, sparking accusations by Manchester United and their supporters of heavy-handedness by Italian police.

Rome security officials denied any wrongdoing. Amato tried his best to strike a conciliatory tone at the signing ceremony for the stewards measure on Thursday, saying "we try to see the vices and virtues on both sides".
"There is no doubt that during the Rome-Manchester match at the Olympic stadium there was one policeman who used his truncheon excessively against a person on the ground," he said.

"But to judge our police based on that single image is distortion, The worst things happened outside (the stadium). There were injuries caused by stabbings and certainly not by police."

Achille Serra, the government official responsible for public security in Rome, repeatedly defended the police saying they acted properly and decisively.

Amato, speaking about the English model, said he admired the speed with which British security responded at stadiums. "Part of the English model is also the immediacy with which one acts against who carries out acts of violence in the stadiums, and this, I think, is the best deterrent."

This week's decision, which aims to gradually replace police with stewards, comes just days before UEFA's Executive Committee decides who will host the 2012 European Championships.

The recent problems of violence looked to have dented the country's chances of hosting Euro 2012 but the bids project manager, Luigi Ludovici, told BBC's World Football programme that the "the scandal is in the past, now we are looking to the future" and the stewarding changes will "probably take a year" to be put in place.

The Italians are one of three nations bidding for the tournament alongside joint bids from Hungary and Croatia, plus Poland and Ukraine. The decision of who will host Euro 2012 will be made by UEFA in Cardiff on 18 April.

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