UEFA last night took the decision not to close Lazio’s ground for the coming Europa League match against Celtic; it’s a decision both clubs urged the governing body not to take because it would have severely impacted on the estimated 10,000 plus travelling support.
Celtic fans can now get ready for Rome.
UEFA was in a difficult bind here.
Recent events – most notably in the match between Bulgaria and England the other night – could have propelled them to take a decision which punished the guilty at the expense of everyone else; they’ve chosen not to.
This isn’t to say that Lazio have not been punished for the shocking misdeeds of their notorious home support; the partial ground closure robs them of their most vocal fans, their Green Brigade if you will, and should give us a little crumb of extra advantage going in, especially as 9000 plus of our own vast traveling army will be at the game.
It is difficult to know what UEFA can do with a club like Lazio, who are clearly now desperate to forestall the inevitable, which won’t be a ground closure at all but suspension from Europe for a year or more.
The club has – like a certain Scottish one – been too generous and welcoming to its nastier elements down through the years and are now being consumed by them.
There is an element of the Lazio support which now thinks of itself as being the club; that is dangerous for the directors, who can now be framed as the enemy of what’s pure by this section of the fan base. The same issues threaten the Ibrox operation, and always have.
The pandering to the Union Bears is such that sectarian behaviour is being “tackled” by tea and biscuits around the table.
They fear UEFA but not a toothless SFA or SPFL.
Clearly there are clubs which have a big – and in some cases growing – issue with racist behaviour in the stands. UEFA has to tackle it. If partial closures and full stadium closures don’t work then eventually clubs will need to be kicked out of tournaments.
I’m just glad, for the sake of all the bhoys and ghirls going over there, that it won’t be this time.
UEFA has found a good middle ground here between punishing the guilty and rewarding the away club … it’s a good decision.
Don’t let anyone kid you that this can’t be done in Scotland.
Only the will is missing.
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