Lazio football club distanced itself from some of its most hardcore supporters after a group of fans distributed leaflets demanding women sit or stand at the back of their Rome stadium.
Lazio’s ultras, a group of die-hard supporters often associated with the political Right, handed out a letter at the gates of their ground on Saturday, saying women should be banned from the front ten rows of the Curva Nord terrace at the Olympic Stadium.
The notices, which said "in the trenches, we do not allow women, wives and girlfriends" were immediately ridiculed on social media and condemned by a number of veteran fans, including a handful of influential Italian actors and showbiz personalities.
And on Monday the club broke its silence. "This is an autonomous initiative by some part of the Curva Nord fans. That’s not the position of the club, we are against any discrimination,” said Lazio’s spokesman Arturo Diaconale. "Lazio fans are numerous, this is an initiative by just a few of them,” he added.
The Lazio ultras have a long-standing reputation for violence, racism and anti-semitism and have long been considered politically close to far-Right and neo-fascist movements. Lazio were also associated with Benito Mussolin during his reign and wore the fascist symbol on their shirt in the 1930s.
The unofficial flyer said the Curva Nord, where the ultras congregate, was a "sacred place" where women were not allowed.
The letter called for "women, wives and girlfriends" to not sit in the first 10 rows of the stand.
“The first few rows, as always, have been experienced like the trenches. In the trenches, we do not allow women, wives and girlfriends, so we invite them to position themselves from the 10th row back,” it read.
It concluded that "those who choose the stadium as an alternative to the carefree and romantic day at the Villa Borghese [one of the main parks in Rome], should go to other parts".
The flyer was signed by "Direttivo Diabolik Pluto", which is part of a group of Lazio ultras known as the "Irriducibili", who rose to power in the 1980s adopting English chanting styles.
Lazio was fined €50,000 (£44,700) by the Italian football federation last season after some fans littered the stadium in Rome with images of Anne Frank — the young author of a famous diary who died in the Holocaust — wearing the shirt of city rival Roma, who share the ground.
Police said on Monday that they had identified through CCTV some of the fans responsible for the latest flyers. The authors of the leaflets could face discrimination charges.