Stadio Olimpico barriers to be removed?

Corriere dello Sport (Guido D’Ubaldo) After nearly 2 years of debates, appeals and political wrangling, a solution finally seems to have presented itself. Roma and Lazio’s senior management have been invited to go to the Viminale next Tuesday to resolve the issue of the barriers in the curve, which were imposed by the then Prefect Gabrielli and which have remained in the most popular areas of the stadium ever since. The Roman clubs’ representatives (Baldissoni for Roma, Lotito for Lazio) will be received by Minister of the Interior Marco Minniti and the Minister for Sport Luca Lotti, the person really behind the invitation, to find a solution that would come into effect before the end of the season.

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Last summer it was his predecessor, Alfano, who tried to find a solution. But this time, Lotti’s insistence has paid off. Seeing the Olimpico left empty, the new Minister for Sport immediately took the problem to heart and has worked hard to resolve it. Thus far, no one has found the answer. Paola Basilone, the new Prefect of Rome, met the Giallorossi management last summer to try and work out a mutually agreeable way of bringing fans back to the curve and resolve the issue of the barriers. But nothing came of it. Nothing has changed since Gabrielli imposed his hard-line approach at the start of last season, until now.

Lotti isn’t just in favour of finding a solution, but in fact is the one who brought this about. The meeting will also involve the Minister of the Interior, because his department is the one that can approve the removal of the barriers. Luca Lotti, who is a fanatical football fan (and is in fact an amateur football coach, like his father), was made aware of the issue by Luciano Spalletti, an old friend of his and who, like Lotti, comes from Empoli. The barriers will be removed this season, probably even this month, but the fans’ behaviour in the curva must obviously be exemplary because otherwise the barriers will be put straight back up. It’s a big success for the fans, who have abandoned the stadium in protest. Roma and Lazio’s supporters groups will be made aware of the meeting and both team’s captains are also expected to be involved – Totti has already told Lotti he will make himself available.

Roma and Lazio are the 2 teams who have lost the largest number of supporters in Serie A in the last 2 years, primarily because of the fans’ protests against the dividing barriers in the curve. The City of Rome’s Commission for Sport met last November to discuss the problem, but in the end they had to let the matter drop because they weren’t responsible for public order. The issue of the barriers caused the fans to go on strike and they have continued to stay away from the stadium, even those who have a season ticket. The Stadio Olimpico has been virtually empty. Against Cagliari, with Roma 2nd in the table, the club sold just over 5,000 tickets.

Yet Roma and Lazio’s fans have been responsible for some brilliant choreography in recent years, making the Olimpico into a unique and passionate stadium. The 2 teams have both lost their impassioned fans, considered for many years to be their 12th man. Now, finally, the appeals of Roma and Lazio’s players have been heard. The Olimpico, without those glass walls that sliced the curve in two, can go back to being filled with supporters.

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