ROME, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Next week's Genoa derby is set to be played in front of a handful of spectators after both Genoa and Sampdoria fans decided to boycott the match in anger over the early kickoff time of 12.30 CET on Sunday (1130 GMT).
"To play the derby at 12.30 is an atrocious decision that needs a determined response," wrote Genoa's hardcore "ultra" fans in a statement.
"Football is increasingly television's doormat, with sport taking a back seat to toadying presenters and lunatic newspaper columnists, the fans are just wallets to empty and mugs to take liberties with, all with the approval of the football league. We invite Genoa fans to leave the Ferraris empty."
Following the Genoa ultras' statement, Sampdoria's Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni group decided to go along with their local rivals.
"A derby at 12.30 is an insult," they said.
"The Genoa derby is historically low on technical quality. The value of the derby is the atmosphere that has few equals in the world and it's this that the television is selling.
"We won't accept this outrage, we believe that we are the stars of this show, so how much will the show be worth without the fans? We'll know at 14.15 on Sunday February 2, because we won't be going."
Fan protests in Italy are usually the domain of the ultra groups, but on this occasion regular supporters clubs have joined in, including the Associazione Club Genoani, an umbrella group which brings together 182 different Genoa supporters clubs from around the world.
Genoa are the home side in this derby and are yet to comment on the boycott, but the situation is further complicated by the traditional Fiera di Sant'agata festival which is taking place on the same day in the Marassi and San Fruttuoso neighbourhoods of Genoa, very near to the stadium.
"If the football league decides that we're playing at 12.30 on February 2 then we're playing at 12.30 on February 2 and that's all there is to it," a Sampdoria spokesman said. (Reporting by Terry Daley, editing by Ed Osmond)