Football: Ultras unsettle Lazio president

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SERGIO CRAGNOTTI, the president of Lazio, says he will no longer attend his side's home matches in Rome's Olympic Stadium due to an increasingly bitter dispute with the club's hardcore "ultra" supporters.

"I will not go to the stadium until I am assured that the fan protests have ended and that these shameful attacks on me and my family have finished," he told the Corriere dello Sport yesterday.

Cragnotti has been strongly criticised by fans in the stadium's Curva Nord for signing a three-year deal with a travel agency for transport and tickets to away games in the Champions' League.

Fans' representatives say the agency, which handles 70 per cent of Lazio's ticketing allocation, are charging double the cost of travelling independently to the game. As they sell the tickets as part of a package, loyal fans say they are being forced to pay over the odds.

Lazio supporters are also angry that television rights for their Champions' League games have been sold to pay-per-view channel, Telepiu, meaning even those who do not use the travel agency and attend the matches must buy a decoder and a subscription to the broadcaster.

However, there are signs that the protests may have been hijacked by extreme right-wing groups, who are known to be active among the Lazio ultras. At Lazio's Serie A fixture against Cagliari, a banner protesting the pay-per-view deal contained an anti-Semitic reference, and swastikas and other fascist symbols are increasingly common sights at Lazio games.

"Our stadium is not for politics... our stadium is only for fans," said Cragnotti, who has called for an end to the racist symbols and slogans.

The Lazio president says he is also upset at the way protests have included insults against members of his family, particularly his daughter Elisabetta, who is the chief administrator at the club.

In Spain, the Croatian international Robert Jarni has taken legal action against Real Madrid. Jarni's lawyers visited the offices of Madrid's Mediation, Arbitration and Conciliation service on Wednesday to request the cancellation of the player's contract.

The Spanish club have not registered him for any competitions this season, either domestic or international, and he has been not been allocated a squad number which means he will be unable to play for Real Madrid before the new year. Jarni's lawyers claim that his enforced exclusion is restraint of trade.