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Italian Cabinet Approves Tough Measure to Fight Soccer Violence


In Italy, an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet approved new security measures to prevent violence in the country's football stadiums. As Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome, the cabinet action is in response to a policeman's death during a riot at a football match between Catania and Palermo on Friday.

The new measures, which take immediate effect, could force many of the team's in Italy's top league to play in empty stadiums.

Speaking at a news conference after the cabinet meeting, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Marco Minniti said stadiums that do not comply with security regulations will remain closed to fans.

Minniti said the new measures approved by the cabinet are severe and without precedent.

They tighten a 2005 security package that was never fully applied and prepare the way for a resumption of top league games on Sunday. Play was suspended after the killing of the police officer.

Minniti also outlined some of the other measures.

The first one, he said, is a ban on block ticket sales to fans of the visiting team.

In addition, authorities can bar suspected hooligans from entering stadiums even if they have not been convicted of crimes. Minniti said about 1,400 fans have been identified as being particularly violent.

Hooligans may also be forced to perform "socially useful" jobs on match days, including removing graffiti and cleaning out stadium toilets.

Fans can now be arrested for hooliganism for up to 48 hours. The measure approved by the cabinet Wednesday raises the maximum penalty for hooligan-related offenses from three years to 15 years.

Other measures ban financial and working relationships between clubs and fan groups.

Only four stadiums in the top league are believed to comply with the security regulations. The Italian soccer league said its officials would meet Thursday in Rome with the presidents of all 42 teams in Italy's top two leagues. They are expected to announce the stadiums that will be subject to the spectator ban when play resumes this weekend.

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