.- The Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops has purchased a controlling interest in an Italian soccer club. The acquisition of AC Ancon, a team top in its division, was financed by a group of Catholic businessmen.
Under the new ownership home game prices will be cheaper and profits from the ball club will fund charitable work in the Third World.
New club rules are also in the works. Fans will be forbidden to taunt and insult opponents, and offensive banners will not be allowed in the stands. Players will even face mandatory volunteer work for foul play on the field.
Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of the archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo explained the goal of the project: "We want to bring some ethics back into the game, which has been undergoing a grave crisis in terms of sportsmanship." The soccer leagues in Italy have recently been in the spotlight for a series of bribing and kickback scandals.
Andrea Staffolani, a 24-year-old striker for AC Ancona, spoke favorably of the new rules: "We have not been told all the details about the new ethical code, but we like what we have read so far."
"The team has played well and fairly on the pitch until now anyway, and we hope to keep it that way," he added.
After the deal is finalized on October 10, the team will have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Staffolani expressed enthusiasm for the event: "We cannot wait to meet the Pope. All of us are delighted, believers and non-believers. It will be emotional."