“It is not right that the club has to pay for the errors of the individual,” slammed Lazio President Claudio Lotito in the aftermath of UEFA inflicting a two-match order to play behind closed doors and a €40,000 fine. The capital club has struggled to control the behaviour of its supporters throughout the campaign and have persistently earned unwanted attention for acts of racism and violence during midweek European duty.
Lotito has a concrete case when examining several members of Lazio’s hardcore ultra fan base. Sectors of supporters such as fan group the Irriducibili even defend acts of racism by claiming they are a means of “distracting the opposition” for the benefit of their team. When dealing with people who can even fathom such a defence, it is clear for all to see the club has a real battle on their hands to irradiate the problem.
The Biancocelesti’s recent punishment stems from inspectors at the Stadio Olimpico spotting around 300 members of the crowd performing fascist salutes during the 2-0 Europa League win over Borussia Monchengladbach. Storied issues with ultras this season has not been isolated to that occasion, and have marred matches both in Europe and domestically.
Incidents during their group stage campaign in the Europa League have been well documented. Heavy fines have been imposed for disturbances that included racist abuse, ignition of fireworks and incidents of a non-sporting nature from supporters in matches against Tottenham Hotspur and FC Maribor. The attack on Spurs fans at the Campo de’ Fiori district was disgraceful, but remains shrouded in mystery, as both Lazio and Roma ultras were arrested.
The attitude of the ultras has to change for the benefit of the team they cherish, as the incidents this term have marred an excellent run of form from Vladimir Petkovic’s men at times. Their next two games, including the tie with Stuttgart, will not be played without the fans that genuinely support the club and it is becoming apparent that the punishments are beginning to heavily impact on the team.
Lazio officials are right to stress that a minority are at the centre of their problems, but they usually happen to also be the loudest. The fact is they need more assistance from the FIGC in combating their issues and all of Italian football has to band together to stand up to acts of racism and violence.