Genoa president ready to quit amid fan protests


MILAN (Reuters) - Controversial Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has said he is ready to throw in the towel after more criticism by supporters. The 69-year-old, who has twice been banned and seen his club relegated over a match-fixing scandal during his turbulent 14 years at the helm, ordered his team to train at a secret location on Thursday to avoid protesting fans.

Genoa, who have a tough match at AC Milan on Saturday, have won only one out of 11 games since the start of the year and the final straw was a 1-0 defeat to neighbours and bitter rivals Sampdoria on Saturday.

They are four places off the bottom in Serie A, although in no immediate danger of relegation thanks to the even more dismal form of bottom three sides Crotone, Pescara and Palermo.

Genoa's Ultras, known as the Gradinata Nord, bitterly criticised the team and called for a protest on Thursday in front of the team's training ground.

"Shameful. There aren't many words to describe the only possible feeling towards those who are unworthy of representing Genoa," said the fans, who previously boycotted a home match in February in protest at Preziosi's management.

Preziosi, the head of Italy's largest toy manufacturer, said the criticism was unfair.

"When Genoa win, the team belongs to the supporters, when Genoa lose the team belongs to Preziosi," he said. "I do what I can and I recognise that it has not been enough, but it's wrong to destroy 10 years of work at Genoa."

"I asked the supporters to leave the team in peace. We will leave the city to avoid these gentlemen."

Preziosi added he was ready to "let go" as president.

"I realised that my cycle is over and perhaps it is also right that I sell and I withdraw, but only after we are mathematically safe," he said.

Preziosi took over the presidency in 2003 with Genoa in the second tier Serie B.

The club thought they had won promotion to Serie A in 2005 but were instead relegated to the third tier after the Italian league found evidence guilty of match-fixing.

Preziosi was banned for five years although this was later annulled on appeal.

Genoa then won promotion to the top flight in 2007, although Preziosi was given another five-year ban, this time for irregularities in financial dealings with his former club Como. This was also later annulled.

After that, the team enjoyed some good seasons, finishing fifth in 2009 and sixth in 2015. However the latter led to more criticism of the club management when they missed out on European football because they were late filing paperwork.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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