The Policing of Football Supporters in Italy in the 21st Century: Repeating the Mistakes of England in the 1980s?

The Policing of Football Supporters in Italy in the 21st Century: Repeating the Mistakes of England in the 1980s?

Wednesday 24th March 2010 at 6pm
B01 Lecture Theatre
Clore Management Centre
Birkbeck College
Torrington Square
London WC1
(For directions please see the pdf map).

 A Roundtable Discussion

  • Lorenzo Contucci, Civil Rights Lawyer.
  • Dr Mark James – Salford University and an expert on the evolution of the law in England & Wales as it has been applied to football supporters.
  • Dr Geoff Pearson – Liverpool University, an expert in legal and policing responses to football crowd disorder.
  • Marco Perduca, Senator for the Radical Party in the Italian Parliament.

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In the 1980’s and early 1990’s Italian club football was widely regarded as the most successful in Europe, manifested by (1) highly successful teams in European club competitions, and (2) a dynamic, passionate and colourful fan culture widely admired across Europe. This success was also reflected in the popularity of TV broadcast Italian football in other European football countries, notably in England. This was at a time when English football was mired in a spiral of decline, with crumbling, poorly maintained, and incompetently managed stadia frequently becoming the venue for conflict between young football supporters and highly aggressive policing. The situation came to a head in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans died at an FA Cup semi-final game at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground. The subsequent Taylor Report into the disaster laid bare a catalogue of stadium management incompetence, and led to root and branch reform of both the quality and management of English football stadia. However, one other development post-the Taylor Report was a move away from highly aggressive policing strategies with a greater focus on consultation with supporters’ groups. This strategy is widely acknowledged as having achieved much greater success in improving ground safety than the para-military style policing of football supporters which was so typical in the 1980s.

In the late 20th and beginning of the 21st century Italian football has been experiencing an upsurge in football-related violence which bears serious comparison with England in the 1980s. Another similarity is that Italian football stadia, last seriously refurbished in the run-up to the World Cup in Italy in 1990, are generally in very poor condition due to chronic under-investment. Ironically, the response of the authorities in Italy has been to adopt many of the repressive policing tactics adopted and proposed in England in the 1980s which failed so miserably to improve the situation.

This roundtable event brings together distinguished speakers and experts from England and Italy to discuss the comparative experience of the policing of football supporters in both countries, and in particular the application of the special laws focused specifically on controlling the behaviour of football fans. Critically the panel address a key question: is the legislative and policing response of the Italian authorities in the 21st Century simply repeating the mistakes of England in the 1980s? In addressing this question the panel will also address another key question: can any reform of the policing of Italian football avoid one of the alleged shortcomings of the English “modernisation”, the over-sanitisation of the stadium experience. Guschwan (2007, page 264), in his study of modern Italian fan culture, succinctly summarised the challenge:

“The difficult task facing Italian government, soccer leagues and fans is to balance the requirements of safety and civility with the passion and expression that makes Italian soccer matches so compelling.”


  • Guschwan, M. (April/July 2007). `Riot in the Curve: Soccer Fans in Twenty-first Century Italy’. Soccer & Society. Vol. 8, No. 2/3. Pages 250-266.
  • Inquiry by the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Taylor (1990). The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster: Final Report. Cm 962. London HMSO.
  • Inquiry by the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Taylor (1989). The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster: Interim Report. Cm 765. London HMSO.
  • Stott, C. & Pearson, G. (2007). Football Hooliganism: Policing and the War on the English Disease. Pennant Books


Lorenzo Contucci

Lorenzo is 44 years old, a father of three, a criminal lawyer since 1993, specializing in football-related violence jurisdiction, and the first lawyer in Italy to seriously challenge the draconian legislation relating to the policing of football supporters in Italy which has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. A Roma season ticket holder since his youth he was one of the founding members of the ultras’ group AS Roma Ultras (dissolved in 2004). A huge fan of punk-rock and new wave bands he collaborates with a radio station in Rome, spends his days in court, in his office and at home with his family. Since 1999 he has run the website – – nowadays a benchmark for football fans all over Italy as a forum for independent commentary and information provision on the state of Italian football and Italian fan culture.

Dr Mark James

Mark is a Reader in Law at Salford Law School and the Director of the Salford Centre of Legal Research.  He has published widely on the law relating to sports injuries and the regulation of spectators.  He is a founding editor of the Entertainment and Sports Law Journal and has recently competed writing a textbook, Sports Law, for the Palgrave Law Masters series.  He is currently working on an analysis of the jurisprudence surrounding personal autonomy and risk taking and is conducting an ongoing investigation of the regulation of ticket touting at sport and entertainment events with Professor Guy Osborn of the University of Westminster.

Geoff Pearson

Geoff is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool Management School and Director of Studies for the MBA (Football Industries) degree. He graduated from the University of Lancaster in 1995 with an LLB (with honours) in law before completing a PhD thesis in 1999 entitled Legal Responses to Football Crowd Disorder, at the same institution. Geoff joined the Football Industry Group at Liverpool in 1999 and his research interests have focused on ‘Football Hooliganism’, legal responses to football crowd disorder, Banning Orders and the policing of football crowds. Geoff was a scientific advisor to FIFA’s Daniel Nivel Foundation on Football Spectator Violence and between 2000 and 2004 worked on a UK Home Office funded project investigating the policing of English fans abroad. He has published on the subject in (amongst others) The Journal of Civil Liberties, Youth & Policy, The Journal of Criminal Law and The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice. In 2007 he published his first book (co-authored with Dr Clifford Stott), Football Hooliganism: Policing and the War on the English Disease (Pennant Books). A full CV is available.

Marco Perduca

Marco is 42, and was elected to the Italian Senate in April 2008 as a member of the Radical delegation in the Democratic Party. He is member of the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Committees. From 1996 to 2006 he represented the Nonviolent Radical Party to the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna coordinating the campaigns to establish an International Criminal Court and a Universal Moratorium on the Death Penalty. From 2006 and 2008 he was an independent consultant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His letters and comments have appeared in The Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, and major Italian newspapers. He is a frequent commentator on BBC TV and radio on Italian politics since 2005 he blogs at He stopped following Fiorentina in 1982 after Juventus stole yet another season.

Birkbeck Sport Business Seminar Series Contact Details

For further details on the seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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