The football authorities must take serious action after the unprovoked attack on Tottenham fans in Rome in the early hours of Thursday morning. The supporters had travelled to Italy for the Europa League match between Tottenham and Lazio and had enjoyed an evening in the Drunker Ship bar. In the early hours of Thursday morning a group of forty helmeted and masked men entered the bar and attacked the Spurs fans with baseball bats, bars, knives and stones. The attack carried on for some time and ten supporters had to be taken to hospital with two having serious injuries. It is reported that one supporter named as, Ashley Mills, who has head and thigh injuries will have to remain in hospital for two weeks.
Tottenham’s Italian born goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini, tweeted about his disgust at the incidents involving the Tottenham fans:
The match which ended in a scoreless draw passed off peacefully although the streets of Rome were described in BBC news reports as being tense in the lead up to the game. In the ground, however, Italian fans were alleged to have been involved in anti-Semitic chanting and the Football Association are to provide evidence in a report they will compile for UEFA. Lazio were fined £32,500 for the behaviour of their fans during the first game at White Hart Lane when there were racist chants directed at Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend.
At the time, Lazio denied that their fans had been involved in the chanting at White Hart Lane and on Thursday they denied immediately any involvement of their supporters in the attack. While that is quite possible, Lazio can’t just wash their hands off the incident – they and the Italian authorities must take action to ensure that in future football supporters visiting Rome are safe.
The Lazio Chairman, Claudio Lotito, was quoted in a BBC news report as saying,
“Lazio fans have nothing to do with what happened last night and there will be surprises about the real culprits”.
It has been reported today that two Italian fans have been arrested and charged with attempted murder for the attack on the Tottenham fans. They are thought to be supporters of Lazio’s greatest rivals, AS Roma.
UEFA Must Act
UEFA must accept responsibility. In the past they have shown a lack of will to take tough action against inappropriate behaviour. Fining a club or an association is a totally inappropriate punishment and a response without any teeth. It never acts as a deterrent and the same actions are repeated without fear of any serious punishment. It is clearly evident that fines don’t work so UEFA must look to take action which will cause clubs and their associations to think about the behaviour of their supporters and then take measures to address the matter.
There is a long list of football supporters being attacked when visiting Rome but no effective action has been taken that might bring these actions to an end. The BBC News website has detailed the attacks on English football supporters in Rome, dating back to 1984.
- 1984 Liverpool supporters stabbed by Roma fans after European Cup Final
- 2001 Liverpool fans stabbed
- 2006 Middlesbrough fans attacked
- 2007 Manchester United supporters attacked in two separate incidents
- 2009 Manchester united fans attacked
- 2012 Tottenham supporters attacked
It is time for UEFA to implement punishments which will show offending clubs that they are serious about stamping out this behaviour. The authorities must then look to ground closures, banning a club from European competitions and a ban on all clubs in that country’s Football Association. While they do have these sanctions within their power, they so often take the easy option of slightly increased fine. Imposing a fine of a few thousand pounds on a club involved in multi-million pound transfer negotiations is totally pointless and ineffective.
After the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, all English clubs were banned from European competitions, a ban which lasted for five years. If UEFA were serious about putting an end to this unacceptable behaviour which has occurred in Rome once again, they would ban all Italian clubs from European competitions. The clubs and the Italian authorities would then have to work together to put in place measures which would ensure the safety of visiting football supporters in their country. The ban on English clubs in the 1980s meant that the Football Association, clubs, police and government had to work to devise plans to reduce the hooligan behaviour which for too long had been accepted as part of attending a football match in England. Not all measures worked but going to a football match in England is now a much more pleasant experience than it was twenty or thirty years ago.
Carlo Cudicini suggested that England should be used as a role model for ways of combating hooliganism.
“I remember when I was playing in Italy – we were looking at England like it was a very dangerous place to go and so I found it quite strange that now it’s the opposite. There are not a lot of incidents in England and the English stadiums have places for families to go and for children to come and watch matches.”
Similar sanctions should be imposed on countries where racist behaviour is accepted and goes unchecked within football grounds. If the football authorities in those countries want to be associated with UEFA and FIFA and to compete in their competitions at club and international level, then they need to ensure they conform to what is regarded as acceptable and appropriate behaviour across Europe.
Andre Villas-Boas commended the Tottenham supporters for their behaviour and acknowledged the difficulty for those caught up in the violence.
“It is an extremely difficult moment for them but and the fear they’ve gone through is hard. [We] give them a message of support. As a club, we will try to help them overcome this.”