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Crowd ban triggers battle for control of Italian football grounds

Italian football clubs this week urged local authorities to hand over ownership of their stadiums so they can invest in vital infrastructure improvements needed to overturn an order to play matches behind closed doors.
A government decree banned spectators from 25 of the country's 31 major stadiums after rioting at a Serie A game earlier this month. A police officer was killed during violence at a game in Sicily.Most of Italy's top football stadiums, including the Ove Arup-designed San Nicola Stadio in Bari, are owned by local authorities. The clubs rent the stadiums but must foot the bill for any security upgrades required.A spokesman for AC Cagliari, which plays at Stadio Sant'Elia, one of the six stadiums to remain open to spectators, claimed stadium conditions could be better maintained in the hands of the clubs. The rioting in Sicily prompted the Italian government to introduce new rules to ensure that every stadium has features such as turnstiles, numbered seats and ticketing, video surveillance and measures to restrict the movement of supporters around the ground.'All the clubs here in Italy would like to be owners of their stadiums,' he said. 'Here in Cagliari, chairman Massimo Cellino is fighting with the municipality because he would like to build a new, smaller stadium or at least to restyle Sant'Elia. But so far the bureaucrats have prevented him.'

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