I thought you all might be interested in a recent development at Fiorentina. The system of support is a different model to yours. There is a network of supporters clubs normally characterised by location, for example there is A Viola Club of London, but it could be a place of work. There is central coordinating association to which all clubs are affiliate. The coordinamemto recently issued a bulletin to all clubs that – as Fiorentina are challenging for aChampions League place, are in the Cup Final and the last 16 of the Europa League with a tie against bitter rivals Juventus – players will not be released to Viola Club dinners. English supporters, who have little chance of meeting a player, might be surprised that any player would go in the first place. Alan Tanner told me that the players have a minibus to drive them to their car park just 250 metres away – heaven forbid they should meet a supporter. He can recall in the sixties players dropping into the Golden Lion in Putney for a drink with supporters after the game. Even within the past 20 years Alan says the players bar doubled as a Riversiders (Vice Presidents) one until Kevin Keegan insisted on a separate one.
This restriction has not gone down well. Supporters were invited to make their views clear on a Fiorentina radio show. The coordinamento says it’s just for this season. Generally speaking we admire the Premier League as a business model: it has branded football globally, generated an immense revenue stream, and social issues like racism have been addressed. However players are now very distant from the fans. I am sure that at Fulham there are pleas for the fans to get behind the team in a relegation, I think you call it, dogfight but when it comes to doing something for the fans like meeting a player less is reciprocated.
Athletico Madrid’s victory in Milan all but removed the last Italian participant in the Champions League before even the business end, leaving Juventus, Fiorentina and Napoli in the Europa League. In March Fiorentina will be playing Juve on the 9th in serie a and 13th and 20th in the Europa League. The city is in high state of fever and also our Blairite Mayor Matteo Renzi, a fanatical fan and only 39, is our next Prime Minister. A clever exponent of social media and, as local politician like an American governor, untainted by governmental politics the former Boy Scout is popular with young people.