La Repubblica (Matteo Pinci) In the glitz and glamour of the league, away fans make up just 5% of the total. They are secluded in a small corner of an ‘enemy’ stadium, but the most difficult thing isn’t withstanding 90 minutes in hostile territory: the most difficult thing is actually getting there. Every year, around 450,000 people travel to watch their own team: Romanisti to Milan, Interisti to Turin, Juventini to Naples, and so on. But there’s an ordeal they all endure in every stadium.
The best example came just recently, on 6th November, when Juventus travelled to Chievo. Looking at the stands, you couldn’t help but be dumbfounded. The Bianconeri fans were perched in the highest tier of the Bentegodi, while the tier below them was completely deserted. Tickets were left unsold by the home club out of so-called respect for rival Hellas fans, who believe that area of the stadium is theirs. The Veronese clubs came to this agreement after the hardcore Chievo support was relocated from one curva to another, but really it feels like they surrendered to the ultras.
On average, fans spend €250 to support their team at an away game, but despite the cost it’s certainly not a comfortable journey. According to the National Observatory for Sporting Events, 84% of clashes between fans occur close to the ground or along the access roads. 3 out of 4 times it’s the result of tensions between the fans. The real problem may not actually be the stadiums themselves, but in how fans get to them. For instance, when Roma supporters travel to Bergamo on Sunday they will find themselves – like everyone else who has gone there before them – funneled through a couple of bottlenecks: perfect places to be ambushed, and given that relations aren’t exactly ideal between the two sets of fans at the moment it wouldn’t be surprising for there to be an incident.
However, you would be wrong to think that the problem is just confined to the ‘little’ Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium. A few kilometres away at San Siro, every week home and away fans accept a compromise to be able to get into the ground – the path that connects the car park for away fans and the away stand goes through the middle of one of the home fans’ ‘decompression’ areas (between the pre-filtering gates and the entry gates). As a result, as each wave of away supporters arrives, the security forces have to fence off a section to allow sets of fans to enter the ground alternately in order to avoid any trouble.
Sometimes though there isn’t much security presence. At the San Paolo in Naples – which De Laurentiis doesn’t like at all – fans think creatively. Except for a few sectors, it’s possible to buy bibs from stewards for only €5: just find one that looks uninterested, and you’re onto a winner. In Bologna, the video cameras which are supposed to be trained on the away sector are actually pointing at a nearby hill. In Genoa, with the stadium being in the middle of the city, there is practically no distance between the pre-filtering gates and the entry gates, making the entire exercise pointless: they are necessary to extend the entry points to the ground, but they have no effect in Genoa. And at Empoli away fans can get around the filtering system entirely simply by walking across a field.
A ticket to get into the away end for a Serie A game costs €30 on average: from €25 at Torino, Atalanta and Bologna to €45 at Juventus and €50 at Roma. The model that has caught on has simply been to raise prices, reducing the number of visiting fans in order to try to avoid the problem.