Lazio have explained their reasons for playing European home games in Florence, but the CONI hit back at this “sneaky temporary measure.”
The Biancocelesti raised eyebrows on Friday when they were granted a UEFA licence to use the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence for next season.
This was arranged so Lazio would not have to rush the payment of an outstanding €2m debt to the CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) for use of the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
It will still have to be paid before the end of June, though, or the club won't be allowed to register for Serie A.
“This is quite pathetic,” said CONI President Gianni Petrucci. “I had a good opinion of President Claudio Lotito, but this is a sneaky temporary measure. Lazio have the same deal in place as Roma for use of the Stadio Olimpico in 2011-12.”
Lazio reacted by releasing a very long statement outlining 10 points why they have taken such radical action.
The Aquile protest that this contract was inherited from the Sergio Cragnotti era and involves paying the CONI around €110,000 per game plus free use of 1,300 seats in the stadium.
Attempts to renegotiate have been rejected, while Lazio paid for a third of the work done to bring the arena up to the new security regulations – as did Roma.
The deadline for the UEFA paperwork was April 29 and on that day, “only minutes before the cut-off point and despite assurances to pay in instalments, CONI informed us that they would not sign unless the entire debt was paid off.
“Realising this was the situation, Lazio requested the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence in order to guarantee the fans could participate in UEFA tournaments. We will play there if the CONI continues its incomprehensible and illegitimate position.
“This is not a sneaky trick to avoid payment, but just a solution to guarantee the club can participate in UEFA competition. It should also prove how necessary it is to speed up the stadium laws and bring this matter to public attention.”
Essentially the Florence licence is only a guarantee, as once the debt is paid to the CONI in June, Lazio will be able to play at the Olimpico.
In Italy only Juventus will own their stadium from next season, as the other clubs all rent out the arenas from either the local council or the CONI. It is consistently named as one of the main reasons why Serie A clubs are at a financial disadvantage compared to the Premier League, Liga and Bundesliga.