Italians are not known for their organisational abilities. Even then, the chaos caused by snow in Serie A has been little short of embarrassing. New stadiums are needed, that much is clear, but this failure to play games because the stands are iced over has more to do with a desperate lack of fore-thought than long-term structural issues. The Juventus Stadium has shown us the way forward and it has become too urgent to ignore.
The Atalanta-Genoa farrago on Wednesday evening could not have been handled worse. Teams were told after the warm-up that the game was off due to frozen stands. The supporters who had made their way into the snow-covered stadium offered to simply move out of the iced sections, which led to the sides warming up again – and in some cases having to get back shirts they had already exchanged – only to be told the match was definitively called off anyway.
In 2012, we have games with a perfectly usable pitch cancelled because a section of the stands is icy. This is most likely because the authorities don’t want to get sued if someone slips and breaks their leg. Aware of the weather reports and the fact February is generally quite a snowy time in northern Italy, could they not put some grit down? Maybe some of those blankets people put over their cars at night to prevent frost? Or those weird giant hair-dryers that seemed to be in use when trying to blow snow off the pitch in Bergamo? It really can’t be that complicated. Yet it’s not even clear who takes responsibility for the upkeep of the stands leading up to a game, as the stadiums are owned by the local council and merely rented by the clubs on match day.
The Juventus Stadium was unveiled with great fanfare and only now are we beginning to see why it is so important that others follow suit. It was colder in Turin than any other city over the past week, yet this arena and its seats remained in perfect condition. It is packed in all weather and against any opponent, whereas even the top of the table Udinese-Juventus couldn’t bring the punters in at the Stadio Friuli. People compared the Turin structure to a Premier League stadium, but I’d say it is closer to the Bundesliga, which makes sense considering the weather is more like Germany than England. If Munich can have an evening kick-off in sub-zero temperatures, why can’t Parma?
It is imperative that the stadiums built for the 1990 World Cup be torn down and replaced by ones more suited to their every day needs. Udinese, Cagliari and Chievo represent small fanbases, so there is no need for such large arenas that sap any atmosphere out of the cavernous walls. They’re expensive to run, impossible to heat and truly embarrassing to see 70 per cent empty on a weekly basis. The investment would be paid off pretty quickly by having the gate actually go into their coffers, the chance to sell official merchandise on site and provide tours of the stadium. Serie A has resisted progress for too long and the Juventus Stadium has shown us what Italian football can achieve.