The head of a British police authority called for Roma to be removed from European competition yesterday after the violence which marred Manchester United's away tie against them.
Dave McLuckie of the Cleveland authority, which encountered Roma's Ultras when many Middlesbrough fans were stabbed before their Uefa Cup tie in March last year, said the time had come for Uefa, the governing body of European football, to act. "Roma should not be allowed to enter from the start because the authorities are not able to look after the people who come to their city to watch football," he said. "They should just be banned from European football. They should not be involved in the Champions League or the Uefa Cup until they clean up their act."
Five visiting fans were stabbed and a total of nine needed hospital treatment after trouble flared before Wednesday night's Champions League encounter with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Though the problems were nowhere near as widespread as those which erupted during the quarter-final meeting between the two teams in the Italian capital last April the trouble emphasised the hooligan problem in Italy.
United expressed disappointment yesterday. "As a club, we are disappointed that this has occurred as we worked extremely hard with the relevant authorities to avoid any such circumstances," a spokesman said. "Naturally, we are concerned for the quick recovery of those involved, but are relieved that the injuries, according to authorities, are 'light'."
While many will question why 1,200 United fans travelled despite knowing the problems encountered last time around, a fresh outbreak of violence was the last thing the Italian authorities needed. The Uefa chief executive, David Taylor, was also shocked when informed of the trouble and knows what a worrying development it is, given that the Stadio Olimpico has already been confirmed as host venue to the 2009 final.
McLuckie said it was fortunate that a British fan had not been killed in the city, and called on the Italian government to step in. He said: "I am absolutely astounded that, so far, no one is dead – but it will not be long before it happens. In this country, we do raids on known hooligans before away matches and we stop those individuals travelling. They must be more proactive in the way they deal with football hooliganism."