Without a main shirt sponsor, Roma took to the pitch against Lazio last weekend proudly wearing SPQR on the front of their shirts, leading the Biancocelesti’s director of communications to argue that Lazio had a right to the initialism as well. But who does it really belong to?
The origins of the initialism SPQR are in ancient Rome, and it stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus (“the Senate and People of Rome”). Both clubs have ties to the city’s ancient past: Roma display the Capitoline wolf on their logo, while Lazio’s crest includes the eagle, which used to adorn Roman legionary standards. The Giallorossi also wear the city’s colours, and are in fact currently altering all branded products to ensure that, starting next season, the club’s colours exactly match with the city’s traditional Giallo Roma and Rosso Roma colours.
But is this enough to lay claim to using SPQR on their shirts? Not according to Lazio’s director of communications, Arturo Diaconale. Speaking to Lazio Style Radio, Diaconale said: “I don’t know if this was authorised by the city or if it was agreed they could use it, given that this is a world famous symbol. It can’t only be used by one club in the capital. I’m curious to know if this was authorised.
“If they wanted to give the impression that it linked the team with the city then they’re mistaken: both clubs are identified with the city, most of all by the older club [Lazio] who brought football to Rome. I hope the city authorities are able to clear this matter up. Lazio could use the SPQR initials on their shirts as well, the eagle identifies us as part of the city; both the wolf and the eagle are symbols of Rome.”
While it was only recently revealed that Roma would have SPQR on the front of their shirts, the news that they would be using the initialism came out last November when Francesco Totti unveiled the special derby kit, featuring SPQR on the collar. At no stage was this publicly challenged by the city authorities. Nor is it even the first time Roma have used it: in 2007, they played a friendly against Borussia Dortmund with SPQR on the front of their change strip.
Although Lorenzo Cesa, the UDC politician, complained that “SPQR belongs to the people, not to a football club”, the municipal statutes seem to make it clear that either club is able to use the famous initialism. According to the statute, its only trademarked use is on the city’s own branded logo of a dark red shield with SPQR written diagonally from top left to bottom right. As such, it appears that both Roma and Lazio are free to use SPQR, and is not the exclusive property of one club or the other.