Crime in the curve: against their own fans

Juventus Turin is cracking down on supporters, some of whom have ties to the mafia. They earn money from ticket sales and threaten to chant racist songs.

Powerful fans: Juve supporters put pressure on the club’s management Photo: imago images/Gribaudi

The mood in the Black & White bar in Turin is depressed. The Black & White is the regular hangout of the Tradizione fan group. A few jerseys of Juve players hang in the room. The one of winger Federico Bernadeschi is even decorated with a dedication. The fan club has been around since 1977, when it was still called the Fighters. After the tragedy at the Heyssel stadium in Brussels, however, English club names were no longer opportune, and the group renamed itself Tradizione. They have about 300 members, the second most important club in the Curva Sud behind the dominant Drughi (600 registered supporters).

Only a few members had gathered a few hours before the Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen. They did not discuss large choreographies or the sequence of chants. Because their banners were confiscated by the police during the Operazione "Last Banner" in September. Not even the desire to even put on a Juventus jersey. "What’s the point of supporting a club that turns in its own people and puts them in jail?" one of the Tradizione ultras tells the taz. The leader of the Tradizione and also head of the Black & White, Umberto Toia, was arrested as part of "Last Banner".

The twelve fan leaders arrested are accused of blackmailing Juventus, using violence against opposing fans, and blackmailing the bar staff at the stadium into giving them free drinks. The grounds for the arrest warrants sketch a grim picture. During several meetings with Juventus’ fan representative, Alberto Pairetto, the latter was threatened and insulted because he would no longer give out the requested amount of free tickets.

Pairetto, son of Pierluigi Pairetto, one of the convicted referees in the 2006 cheating scandal, had given out up to 100 tickets per fan club in previous years. Andrea Puntorno, leader of the Bravi Ragazzi fan club and now arrested for drug trafficking in Sicily, publicly spoke of revenues of between 20,0,000 euros for him alone per matchday. Turin’s antimafia lawyers checked the information and confirmed this volume of business to the taz.

President meets Mafiosi

The antimafia investigators came into play because an ‘Ndrangheta clan was also involved in the ticket business. A scion of the Dominello clan was even accepted by Juventus as a mediator figure for the fans and met Andrea Agnelli several times. The scion of the industrial dynasty from Turin is not only Juventus president, but also head of the European Club Association. The ECA has been tinkering with the European Super League for years. The whip of this millionario league meets with a mafioso – a great business environment. Because of his meetings with the now convicted Rocco Dominello, Agnelli was initially banned by the sports court; the ban was then reduced to a fine.

After the "Alto Piemonte" mafia trial, in which the Dominello clan’s business dealings were only a side story, Juventus apparently tried to change its ticketing policy. The Ultras, however, felt challenged. Last Banner" reveals that the heads of the fan clubs also threatened racist fan chants as a means of blackmail. Their calculation: If Juventus does not issue the tickets, the club will have to fear sanctions. Even the suspension of the fan section for two match days as a punishment for racist outbursts was seen as a triumph by fan leaders – in the hope that Juventus would cave in.

In this case, however, the club did not. Not even the threat by the most important of the fan leaders, Drughi boss Dino Mocciola, to make public the telephone calls that former fan supporter Raffaello Bucci had recorded on his instructions, was able to intimidate the club. Bucci, once a member of the Drughi himself, died in July 2016 – just one day before he was scheduled to testify before ‘Alto Piemonte investigators. Bucci was aware of the ‘Ndrangheta connections and the illegal ticket business. The Cuneo prosecutor’s office, headed by a former antimafia investigator from Sicily, now assumes murder.

"Alto Piemonte," "Last Banner," and the Bucci murder case clearly reveal the disturbing conditions within the Juventus fold. Whether much will change, however, is questionable. Two of those arrested have been released. And the lawyers of the fan leaders are optimistic in an interview with the taz that the evidence is not sufficient for a conviction anyway.

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