On Saturday around 600 away fans were delayed entrance to the San Paolo. We investigate what happened.
Early on Saturday morning around 600 Hellas Verona fans gathered in the city to begin the 700 kilometre journey south to Napoli.
After a long but uneventful journey, they arrived on the outskirts of Napoli in good time to follow the necessary security procedures and enter the stadium ahead of kick-off.
From here, the convoy of buses, vans and private cars was met by local order enforcement officers to be escorted to the stadium for the final leg of the journey. Instead of heading directly to the stadium, the convoy was forced to take a scenic tour of the Neapolitan ring roads. By the time they were eventually admitted to the stadium, the first half was drawing to a close. To add insult to injury, Verona had dominated much of that first half.
Marco (45) was typical of those who travelled for the game. He left Verona at 6.30 am, arriving in Napoli at 4.30 that afternoon. Travelling on an official supporter’s bus, Marco described the journey as long but full of enthusiasm. At 6.40 pm, with no explanation or justification for the hold up, he was finally ushered into the stadium with the rest of the Verona fans, forty minutes after kick-off and over 12 hours after leaving Verona! Having paid €40 for his ticket, acquired through the official outlet, Marco was unsurprisingly pissed off!
The treatment of the fans has left a bitter taste in the mouth as well as the inevitable suggestion that Verona fans were unfairly targeted by the Neapolitan authorities. Immediately after the match, Hellas President Maurizio Setti condemned the treatment of the Verona fans and expressed regret that Hellas had played the entire first half without the support of their many fans. Verona’s Mayor, Federico Sboarina, also weighed in, demanding an explanation from the prefettura in Napoli on behalf of the 600 people who paid for a sporting event which they were prevented from attending.
This isn’t the first time that away fans have been on the receiving end of such treatment at the San Paolo, as fans from as far away as Swansea and Arsenal can testify (Napoli fined more than £20,000 after 'deplorable' delays for Swansea City fans).
Consumer rights organisations in Italy have suggested that fans who were delayed without legitimate grounds from accessing the match may be entitled to compensation.
All too often in Italy, the away sections of the country’s vast and ageing stadiums are sparsely populated. When fans are treated in such a way, it’s easy to see why.
Those crazy faithful who, despite the many obstacles put in their way, travel to support their team deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. With that right, of course, comes a responsibility to behave accordingly. On this occasion, there is no suggestion that the behavior of the Veronese fans was anything other than orderly.
As the fall out from this episode continues, Senator Lorenzo Fontana has proposed a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
While the debate rumbles on, one thing is certain. When Napoli come to Verona in March, they can expect a warm welcome.