Should Roma Be Banned From the UEFA Cup?
DOES ITALY need the kind of short, sharp shock English football got with the five year exile from Europe?
That draconian measure forced the game to face up to some harsh realities. Between Heysel and Hillsborough English football was involved in a deep-seated re-examination of almost every aspect of an anarchic, lawless game that was sliding towards oblivion.
But there were Italian fans at Heysel too, waving guns and knives and goading Liverpool supporters. Has the Italian game considered it's own deeply disturbing terrace culture?
Italy's Ultras are out of control. What Boro fans saw in Rome was just a sideshow. Riots are common. Missile throwing is routine. Deaths are par for the course. Racist chanting is endemic. Italian football is like 1983 in England. With flares.
The Ultras have a power that English fans could not conceive of. They control and police the Curva themeselves, selling tickets to raise the money to buy banners and fireworks. They confront players on training grounds and club presidents in the boardroom. Crossing the Ultras can bring personal recrimination and a financial backlash.
And that is the nub of the problem. Italian football has a political and cultural crisis that the big club owners are scared to tackle.
The prospect of a European ban may actually help the owners. It will provoke a crisis and concentrate minds. If the risks of losing the route to the Champions League cashcow outweight the risks of tackling the Ultra then the Serie A big boys may make their move.
Gates in Italy are in freefall. Looking at the facilities in the Stadio Olimpico (those toilets!) you can see why they don't have a family audience. You can see why ordinary people are turning away. We have been there. Changing the demographics inside the ground may help dilute the aggression in the way it did in England.
But also they need a concerted police operation to isolate, arrest and punish the ringleaders of organised violence. And that can only succeed with the full co-operation of the clubs and a press that has rarely taken issue with the culture of violence.
But on what grounds would Italian clubs be banned? Well, they have plenty of previous. They should be warned that the next instance of disorder, missile throwing, ambush or racist chanting will trigger a one year suspension and any repeat would extend that ban.
On a personal level I would say the situation in Rome last week would provide a strong case for an expulsion of Roma on its own.
It seems to me that the need for a 3,000 strong para-military force to provide protection for Boro fans as they travel to and from the ground sends out a strong signal that Roma can not guarantee the safety of visiting fans. The failure of 1,000 riot police to prevent an attack inside the ground - or make any attempt to arrest the perpetrators - underlines that.
If Roma can not guarantee the safety of visiting fans then they should not allowed to stage the match. If they can't stage a match then they should not be admitted to the competition.
In truth, we got away lightly in Rome. Someone could quite easily have been killed. Would that make any difference? Will it take a Heysel in Italy before UEFA Act?
THERE'S more stuff on the Draconian policing form the Evening Gazette on gazettelive... "Bursting with pride"