Authors: Flavia Festa and Hal Fish
Maybe, at last, Italian football is taking a step in the right direction.
This Saturday, Verona host Juventus in Serie A and for the first time in the history of Italian football, stewards at the stadium will wear body cameras. The aim is to easily identify the fans responsible for the racism and abuse against players.
Verona came under scrutiny last November when their fans racially abused Brescia forward Mario Balotelli. The Italian’s response was to kick the ball into the stands and threaten to leave the field before the end of the game if the abuse continued.
After the episode, Verona received a pitiful €3000 fine from the league for their supporter’s appalling behaviour, but the club decided to take matters into their own hands and commit to taking action to prevent events of a similar nature occurring in the future.
Their solution? A system of body cameras – managed by Csa Security in partnership with TIM (the main sponsor of Serie A) – worn by stewards.
The introduction of this technology is a significant step forward in taking actions against racism episodes in Italian football. Serie A is not new to racist abuse at stadiums, but the media, the league and clubs have done little to effectively counter it.
Italian daily sport newspaper Corriere dello Sport’s controversial ‘Black Friday’ headline last November displays the media’s complicity in these situations.
And even when meaning well, attempts at anti-racist campaigns have come across as hamfisted and ill-thought-out.
This was summed up earlier this season when Serie A released a series of anti-racism artwork which featured posters of painted monkey faces. Needless to say, the tasteless campaign was widely condemned by clubs across the league.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) December 17, 2019
In light of the repeated racist incidents, all the clubs in the division made a pledge to combat Italian football’s issue with racism. A joint quote said: “We have to publicly recognise that we have a serious problem with racism.”
However, for all the talk, there has been no clear sign of action. And so, Verona is taking a stand. They want to clear their own reputation as a racist club and set an example for the other 19 clubs of Serie A.
Verona’s decision to make their stewards wear body cameras will likely not put an end to racism in Italy; in fact it may do very little to combat it. However, Verona taking direct action sends out a new message to all Italian football clubs.
They are saying to the giants of Juventus, Inter Milan, Lazio, and AC Milan: ‘This is what we are doing, so what can you do?’
Indeed, the fact that this story is hardly being reported in Italy or across Europe suggests it will take action from one of the big clubs before Serie A will see a real change.
But for now Verona have taken ownership of their own issues with racism, and when league representatives have repeatedly failed to adequately police the issue, perhaps this is the way forward.