25 Sep 2008

EC wants region to clarify soccer sponsorship

10:15 am on 25 September 2008

The European Commission wants the Italian region of Calabria to explain why development aid is being used to sponsor the national soccer team.

It has set a deadline of 29 September for an explanation.

Calabria is one Italy's poorest regions. It has spent 1.8 million euros ($US2.6 million) of aid to promote its tourism image by sponsoring the world champions in the run up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Commission wants to be satisfied that the money has been spent according to its rules.

Regional officials argue it can help raise the profile of their area, both within Italy and overseas. The idea is that the promotion will attract more tourists to Calabria.

Italy will play Bulgaria, the Republic of Ireland, Cyprus, Georgia and Montenegro during qualifying, as they begin their defence of the World Cup - which they won in Germany in 2006 by beating France in the final.

The BBC reports Calabria is home to the N'Drangheta, one of Italy's most powerful and violent mafia organisations.