SS Lazio fans carried out their threat to boycott the home Serie A match against Atalanta BC in protest at club president Claudio Lotito on Sunday, leaving their team to play in Rome’s near-deserted Stadio Olimpico.
Coach Edoardo Reja called for the fans to settle their differences with Lotito after Lazio slumped to a 1-0 defeat in the midtable battle.
“It’s a real shame to see the Olimpico deserted,” Reja told reporters. “We were in with a chance of achieving something significant, but it’s difficult to play in these conditions.”
“This situation can’t go on, it’s a disadvantage for us, as we’ve seen today [Sunday]. We need them to come together, the two sides need to give some ground,” he added.
Lazio stayed eighth after Sunday’s loss on 38 points, but have dropped six behind fifth-placed Inter, who occupy the lowest Europa League qualifying spot.
At the game, a banner fans draped over the seats read: “It’s him or us,” and another said: “Lazio is ours and we will leave it to our children.”
The supporters, led by the hardcore Ultra fans, have been protesting against Lotito since the start of the season. They boycotted the opening 15 minutes of a match in September last year in protest at the club’s perceived lack of activity in the close-season transfer window.
Their anger grew in January when Brazilian playmaker Hernanes was sold to Inter, where he has made an immediate impact.
The Ultras’ attitude toward Lotito has been frosty ever since he bought the franchise in 2004 and stands in stark contrast to their extremely cosy relationship with free-spending predecessor Sergio Cragnotti.
The Biancocelesti won seven trophies under Cragnotti, including the Serie A title and the European Cup Winners Cup.