Italy relaxes punishment for 'territorial' discrimination

The logo of Italian Football Federation (FIGC) is seen at its headquarters in Rome August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - Derogatory chanting against certain regions of Italy will be treated less severely than racial discrimination this season following a decision by the Italian federation (FIGC) on Monday.

The FIGC’s executive committee voted to change the disciplinary code and exclude so-called “territorial discrimination” from the list of offences that are punishable with partial or full stadium closures for a first offence.

Instead, it has been included alongside offences such as letting off fireworks, obscene chanting and inciting violence, which are punishable with fines.

Under pressure from FIFA and UEFA, Italy last season imposed tougher sanctions for racially insulting behaviour by supporters.

However, the rule included territorial discrimination, prompting a rebellion by fans.

Italian fans have long exchanged regional insults, with Naples among the main targets, and some of last season’s chanting was interpreted as an act of defiance.

In October, Inter Milan fans started a campaign inciting all supporters to break rules simultaneously with the intention of having an entire weekend in which all the games were played behind closed doors.

Napoli fans themselves unfurled a banner at one game that read: “Naples cholera-sufferers. Now close our curve (terrace)!”

Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Stephen Wood