I ran into this article about Lazio president Claudio Lotito in the Guardian. I am copying the entire article and also providing the link here:
ITALY`S MR. CLEAN BIDS TO SAVE FOOTBALL FROM FASCIST THUGS
As the game reels from a policeman’s murder, Lazio’s chairman is determined to purge it of corruption
Tom Kington in Rome
By nine in the evening the four mobile phones on Claudio Lotito’s enormous desk are still ringing, staff are scurrying in and out of the office, and bodyguards are fidgeting in the hall of the villa on Rome’s Appian Way which doubles as nerve centre for Lotito’s cleaning, maintenance and security empire.Life has got a lot busier for Lotito since he invested £34m of his fortune in SS Lazio football club, the debt-laden den of neo-fascist fans slumming it after its glory days under the management of Sven-Goran Eriksson.
By taking a controlling stake in the club in 2004 Lotito joined the ranks of what Italians call I ricchi scemi, the rich idiots, the band of wealthy, often outspoken football chairmen who line up with players to give interviews and court adulation from the terraces, often paying off hard-core fans with free tickets to get it.
It is a practice many chairmen are now regretting. Nine days after an ‘ultra’ fan killed a policeman in a riot outside Catania stadium, 10 top-flight clubs are today being forced to play in empty stadiums until they beef up security.
Claudio Lotito may be rich, but he is no idiot. Inches from his plush office is the garden wall over which nine homemade bombs were hurled last year when he refused to play ball with the Lazio Irriducibili, the Indomitables, Italy’s best organised Ultras.
‘When I got here I said, “I don’t want to talk to these fans. What do we have to talk about?”‘ said Lotito, 48.
The Ultras had plenty to discuss with him, including the lucrative rights to sell club merchandise they had won from Lotito’s predecessor Sergio Cragnotti, not to mention the alleged 800 free tickets per match they resold and the €25,000 they banked from the club for staging colourful displays at home games.
The murky deals were overlooked as Lazio was listed on the Italian stock exchange in 1998, and the fans’ Nazi salutes and barracking of black players were of little concern as Cragnotti and Eriksson won the league in 2000, fielding stars including Hernan Crespo, and Pavel Nedved.
But when Cragnotti’s Cirio food firm went bust in 2003 and the Lazio chairman was arrested on fraud charges, the party at Rome’s Olympic stadium came to a halt.
‘When I got here Lazio was sinking in debt, and when losses are stacking up at a club, it’s logical to try and create consensus,’ said Lotito, who has introduced a salary cap and now says the club is in the black to the tune of €30 million.
Lotito’s refusal to hand out tickets and other concessions convinced the Ultras to try to buy the club in 2005, by force if necessary. ‘Your wife has great legs – too bad we’re going to break them,’ was among the threats Lotito received by phone and letter: ‘Sell up if you know what’s good for you.’
Even as Lotito’s new-look young squad, shorn of its overpaid stars, edged up the rankings to challenge for a Champions League spot, Ultra-controlled radio stations continued to denounce him, the coach Delio Rossi and any fans and players who backed them. Only veteran forward Paolo di Canio kept himself in the Ultras’ good books by giving fans Nazi salutes after scoring.
The turnaround came last October with the arrest of four leading Ultras connected to the takeover bid, and now pro-Lotito fans are starting to shout down the boo-boys at the stadium.
After Catania, the chairman is now looking to the future. Despite a lifetime spent at the Olympic stadium, he wants to shift Lazio to a Premiership-style, purpose-built sports and shopping complex on the edge of town. ‘Fighting violence is all about getting families to the stadium and for that we need to build complexes that offer shops, cinemas, offices and apartments, away from the middle of cities and therefore safer.’
Detractors point out that inner-city stadiums provide a lot of the charm of Italy’s national game, and that Lotito conveniently owns the plot of land north of Rome he is offering as Lazio’s new home. But after this month’s fatal street battle left policeman Filippo Raciti dead, the Italian government is now listening