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What the papers said 15th August 2018

rfi English, Aug 15

The Genoa bridge disaster dominates the French front pages, even if very little is known about the causes of the collapse, in the absence of real information, expert speculation is the order of the day; billions of income for football, and tickets are too expensive.

Le Monde notes that the director of Autostrade in Italia, the company responsible for the collapsed section of motorway, yesterday rushed to confirm that he had no documentary evidence that the Morandi bridge posed a danger.

This despite the fact that just two years ago Antonio Brencich, the professor of concrete structures at Genoa university's engineering school, warned that there were problems with the Morandi motorway even during its construction between 1963 and 1967.

He blamed "engineering errors" which had underestimated the impact of the shrinking of the concrete used to build the bridge, resulting in a non-horizontal road surface.

Superficial modifications were carried out in the 1980s to correct the humps and hollows complained about by motorists, but no structural changes were made. Worldwide there are only two other bridges using the same construction techniques, one in Libya, the other in Venezuela.

The Morandi bridge had an estimated lifespan of 100 years. Brencich notes that, by the end of the 1990s, maintenance charges had already exceeded 80 percent of the total construction cost.

When in doubt, blame Brussels!

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, quoted in right-wing Le Figaro, says he is determined to find out who is responsible. "They are going to pay," he affirms. "And pay dearly."

Other members of Rome's anti-system government, in place since June, have used the occasion to blame European Union budget regulations for the disaster. Salvini himself told journalists on Tuesday that it was clear that the safety of Italians was more important than respect for spending rules coming from Brussels.

A question of priorities

Business paper La Tribune mentions the Italian disaster, in third place behind Elon Musk's explanation of his decision to leave the stock market and the Indian government's declaration of its determination to take control of the information currently in the hands of Google, Facebook and other monsters of modern technology.

Noisy, troublesome and unnecessary

Le Monde looks at the world of sport and the remarkable fact that half of the clubs playing in the top-flight Premier League in England would make a profit even if they never sold a single match-day ticket.

Last season, thanks to their share of record income of 10 billion euros from television rights, gate revenue from ticket sales represented less than one-fifth of overall income.

The fact is, according to Bob Wilson, described by Le Monde as a football economics specialist, that most English clubs don't need their supporters, from a financial point of view at least.

Which begs the question of why it still costs an arm and one of Christiano Ronaldo's legs to sit in the cold and rain watching a match.

Especially since representatives of the Supporters Federation have pointed out the huge contribution their members, the ordinary fans, make to the atmosphere at televised games.

"Players and managers come and go but we're always there," says Malcolm Clarke, the group's president. "We provide the crowd, the noise, the background ... who'd want to watch pictures of a Premier League match played in an empty stadium?"

There's little fear of that. Ninety-six percent of all match-day seats were sold in the Premier League last year. Ordinary tickets cost €34 apiece.

In Spain, incidentally, clubs are fined by La Liga if the television cameras show empty spaces in the stands. That sounds a bit like the tail wagging the dog. But it is, of course, a funny old game.

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