Thursday, 14 June 2007

Calcio's state of emergency over

The state of emergency imposed on Italian football following the death of a police officer in rioting at a match in February is officially over.

The interior ministry's Sporting Events Observatory said it was handing the power to set fixtures back to the Italian Football League (Lega Calcio), signalling a return to normality.

The ministry stopped matches it considered high risk from being played at night after Filippo Raciti's death in rioting at the Catania-Palermo derby game on February 2.

Raciti's death also led to the temporary closure of a number of Serie A and Serie B grounds while they were brought up to scratch with security regulations. "The automatic scheduling mechanism linked to games' risk factors was connected to an emergency," said Antonio Manganelli, the chief of the Sporting Events Observatory.

"Now security conditions are better, which enables us to take this big step forward".

The Observatory said it will continue to monitor the situation and give the League recommendations on the scheduling of high-risk clashes. "We are returning to normality, but without forgetting everything that has happened in this tragic season," said Lega Calcio President Antonio Matarrese. "It was a lesson to us".

The interior ministry said violence related to football had fallen by 70% since February 2 compared to the same period in the previous season. Injuries are down 93% among police officers and 44% among fans.

Giancarlo Abete, the President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), insisted these results will not lead to complacency.

"We have set ourselves two goals," he said after the meeting at which the interior ministry announced its decision. "These are: to keep up our guard on violence and to create the conditions to take the football championship back to a situation of normality".

The Raciti tragedy prompted the government to prepare a package of anti-hooliganism measures and to fully implement previous anti-violence legislation passed in 2005. Both packages were inspired by the English model of defeating crowd trouble at football games.

Manganelli said the authorities aim to have British-style stewards operating at all stadiums by the end of the year. Club stewards are credited with playing a major role in helping British football clean up its act over the last 20 years.

Their job is to help fans find their seats and make sure they do not do anything they shouldn't during the game, like racially abusing players or throwing objects onto the pitch.

This makes it possible to reduce the police presence at the grounds, which in turn helps reduce potential tension between fans and security forces. British police are only called on to handle major incidents inside stadiums.

Although stewards do exist in Italian stadia, there are fewer of them and their role is generally more limited than in England.

[Catania Violence: Full Coverage]

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