Decrepit or unsuitable stadia are major problem in Serie A, from the outdated Olimpico in Rome to the oversized San Nicola in Bari but most clubs have a plan – on paper at least – to move to a modern, purpose-built home. Many of these utopian ideals, such as the Cittadella Viola proposal by Fiorentina, are struggling to go ahead, whether through a lack of funding or assistance from local governments.
In failing to secure any of the recent International tournaments – despite numerous bids – the country’s football clubs are now beginning to realise they must fund these projects themselves, or else face falling further behind their European counterparts as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations come into effect.
Almost all the stadia in Serie A are owned by the city council and the clubs pay an extortionate amount of rent for the privilege of playing there – Napoli’s San Paolo for example costs the southern side €600,000 per year despite being woefully short on the modern amenities befitting a club set to compete in next seasons Champions League. As a result they made just €14 million from match-day revenue last season despite an average attendance of over 40,000 per game.
Those figures are numbers that would make even Juventus, Italy’s best supported club, jealous as they themselves average just 23,000 – the lowest in Europe’s Top 20 Clubs and only good enough for eleventh place in Serie A. Clearly this is hampered by playing in the Stadio Olimpico they have shared with city rivals Torino since 2006, whose capacity is only 28,000. One of the first casualties of the Calciopoli fallout was the abandoning of the clubs plan to redevelop their previous home the Delle Alpi, but now a similar project is almost completed.
Work on building an entirely new home on that same site, with a capacity of 41,000 (reduced from 69,000) is currently on schedule. The old stadiums design was badly flawed, with poor visibility caused by the distance between the stands and the pitch due to the rarely used athletics track. These factors contributed to woefully low attendances; in the final season the average stood at just 35,880 and a Coppa Italia match against Sampdoria in 2002 was watched by just 237 spectators.
Juventus estimate that the move will increase their match day income to €40 million a season, more than double the current level of €19m. The new premium seating, unmatched anywhere in the peninsula, is particularly important considering that Arsenal make 35% of their own match-day revenue from 9,000 similar seats at their Emirates home. Even more encouraging is the fact that over 40% of these seats have already been sold for next season, giving the club a guaranteed increase in revenue before the work is even completed.
Another key factor in the move has been cost, particularly with the Bianconeri only playing in the Champions League twice since their return to Serie A in 2007 and thus missing out on revenue they once took for granted. Despite increasing in cost to €120 million, the project has been largely funded by the sale of naming rights to Sportfive – who in turn will sell them on – for €75m and the €20m profit from selling some land to Nordiconad. This means the club will enter its new home in August at a net cost of just €25m, which is in truth a quite remarkable piece of business.
The club has also been able to make a number of deals with sponsors and associates for the new stadium, opening paths to revenue that would not be available had they continued to share their council owned stadium with Torino. Able to exclusively offer access to the Juventus brand means far more to the investors, and it is no surprise to see Sony, Cartasi and Balocco shake hands with the club on deals as the opening day grows ever closer.
More than cost, profit or anything to do with financial gain however is a return to a stadium they can call truly their own, a feeling that has never truly existed at the Olimpico, delle Alpi or Communale. Whatever name ends up adorning this fantastic looking structure for Juventini it will simply be home, at last.
• Our thanks to Kieron O’Connor of The Swiss Ramble for help with financial details.