Tessera del consumente

It's been a while. Both for any sort of real updates on this blog (life's a beach), as well as for re-addressing the topic that makes me sound more like a miserable pessimist than anything else: Rosella Sensi, the management and the general direction of the club.
A part of me recognizes that it's been a bit capricious, perhaps even hypocritical, to have toned down the criticism under a period where the on-pitch exploits have been phenomenal. But on the other hand, there really hasn't been much to complain about for a pretty long time. It could be a coincidence (but isn't) that all of the things management did and said that made me bury my face into the reassuring haven that is the palm of my hand just happened to take place when the game results were Lazio-esque and distractions were needed. The new stadium? It was presented in September, with movie trailer voice and all, but how much have you heard about it since Ranieri took the team on a near-six month run of undefeated games? Probably not much more than me, which has been next to nothing. But fair is fair, and even if I strongly suspect that much of my gripe with management simply comes from their misguided attempts to redirect criticism and turn it into something different, these six months haven't contained many episodes that have frustrated me. The signing of Luca Toni was even a particularly inspired move, and I have applauded it until my hands grew blisters and later turned them into concrete blocks with opposable thumbs.

Now it's time to revisit the malaise and general pessimism, at least in part. Now AS Roma has announced that starting next season the club will be linked to the Tessera del tifoso project (still best summarized here by Ms. Wilcox). This means that fans will have to request a personal club (Visa) card, or for those currently without a season ticket, purchase one for the relatively nominal fee of €15. Holding the card is necessary in order to buy a season ticket starting with the 2010/2011 season, and failure to acquire one or failure to meet the prerequisite demands posed to the presumptive card holder means that a season ticket is ruled out. And it's not as hard to fail to meet these prerequisite demands as one could think; any stadium-related offenses during the past five years automatically rules one out of consideration, and these offenses haven't undergone scrutiny from a judicial system. They are drawn up by the police, and I and probably anyone who has ever been to an Italian game have seen firsthand that this isn't always done in the most meticulous of manners. For now, at least, the Tessera del tifoso system applies only to those seeking to get a season ticket. Getting stray tickets is (still) possible, but truth be told I haven't yet understood if that will be changed in the future or if this was a permanent concession made amidst the storm of protests during the fall of 2009.

This is all made all the more ridiculous since the project has the backing and fervent support of Roberto Marino, the Minister of the Interior, himself arrested, charged (and initially condemned to four months or prison time) for resisting police arrest, and thus himself ineligible for his own project. I suppose that does make some twisted sense, however; this isn't a project made for the love of the sport or by people with love for it. It is veiled in empty phrases such as cutting down football-related violence and ensuring a more beautiful game, but 2010's football-related violence doesn't happen inside the stadiums. It takes place at an Autogrill somewhere on a Sunday noon, miles away from the stadiums. Connecting the cards to Visa also reveals that this isn't about "rewarding loyalty", or whatever the proposal was being promoted as doing. Instead it seeks to create customers of the fans, offering special deals on merchandise and seeking to breed them into becoming patrons of whatever they can push and make a bundle from.

Ultimately, even this time my criticism towards management becomes muted, almost to the point where it fades out completely. This isn't optional, and every club in serie A must undergo it. As such it's hard and harsh to criticize someone for doing what was required of them. My suspicion is that I'm merely feeling particularly nostalgic today for the Franco Sensi/Franco Baldini school of thought: if going down is inevitable, it will be done kicking and screaming every bit of the way. Lest there would have been broad support among the 20 clubs to oppose it, that kind of resistance wouldn't have changed anything anyway. But it would have been a reason to walk a little bit taller.