Italy allows comparative ads, except when it comes to soccer

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ROME--Despite a new rule allowing comparative advertising forthe first time ever in Italy, a government committee has warned the national volleyball league not to be too critical of soccer, the sport closest to Italian hearts, in an ad campaign aimed at attracting new fans.

The ad, created by Milan-based agency Biasi Lando, ran as a full-page print ad in the leading sports daily, Gazzetta dello Sport, depicting the clash between armored riot police and violent fans in a 1997 soccer game between Italy and England in Rome's Olympic stadium.

"Change the Game. Come to Volleyball" ran the main print in the ad. Below, in smaller print, ran another line: "The bleachers are not trenches, but a place to watch friends."

The ad immediately triggered a formal protest from the national soccerleague to CONI, the national Olympic Committee which oversees both soccer and volleyball. CONI ruled the ad misrepresented soccer and ordered it withheld from publication.

The volleyball league says it is not appealing the decision. Resigned to volleyball's second-rate status in this soccer-crazy nation, volleyball league chief Roberto Ghiretti says: "We are ants, we cannot go to war with the giants from soccer."

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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