Thursday March 7 2019
Italy finally getting stadiums sorted

Slowly but surely, more and more Serie A clubs are starting stadium revamps, as Emmet Gates analyses the arena crisis in Italy.

Whisper it quietly - very quietly in fact - but there’s a gust of rejuvenation blowing through Italian football. On the field, the Nazionale is starting to resemble something of a respectable team after the hideous monstrosity that was the Gian Piero Ventura era. Away from the pitch, Italy’s clubs are finally waking up to the realities of 21st Century football, namely modernising their stadia.

Juventus led the way, almost a decade ago at this stage, by building the J Stadium on the site of the loathed Stadio delle Alpi. Juve’s hegemony over the Serie A title is no doubt viewed by rival fans and neutrals as tedious and highly damaging to the ‘product’. Furthermore, Juve are usually, and unfairly, lumped together with Bayern and PSG as examples of domestic dominance gone too far, like a giant sloth gorging itself on the rest of the league.

But if their dominance has crystallized one pertinent issue to the other 19 owners in Serie A, it’s that, finally, they see the importance of owning a modern, multi-faceted stadium as a vital measure to increase revenue and close the Grand Canyon-sized gap that now exists with The Old Lady.

Of course, this is Italy. The country’s archaic, byzantine bureaucracy that cripples so much of everyday life has also been stifling clubs from getting ambitious stadium projects off the ground over the last 15 years. But there is genuine optimism that the sands are shifting.

Following Juventus, Udinese renovated their bloated Stadio Friuli between 2013 and 2016, downsizing its capacity in the process. They, along with Sassuolo, remained the only clubs to own stadiums.

Then in 2017, Atalanta bought the rambunctious-yet-decrepit Stadio Atleti Azzurri D’Italia from the city of Bergamo for close to €9m. Plans have since been approved to totally renovate the structure, with work beginning this April on the Curva Nord. Work will thus continue each summer until 2021. The remodelled stadium will have a capacity of 23,000 and cost €35m.

Frosinone also joined the party, when they inaugurated the Stadio Benito Stirpe at the beginning of last season. Their 16k, €20m stadium won plaudits across Italy.

Similar projects are in various states of flux: Cagliari’s new €60m stadium, to be built on the site of the old Stadio Sant’Elia, has won city council approval, with ground to be broken by next year. Bologna presented plans in January to refurbish the Dall’Ara. Fiorentina, Venezia, Empoli and, of course, Roma’s eagerly anticipated project are all nearing the bureaucratic finish line. Sampdoria, Bari and Brescia are also toying with the idea of restructuring their respective grounds.

What’s benefiting Italian clubs in the stadium quagmire are the recent changes made to Italy’s sporting law, introduced to accelerate the lengthy bureaucratic process and to allow private investment in the building of new stadiums.

The change of law is evident in the case of Bologna’s proposed renovation. In their presentation, the club revealed that the restyled Dall’Ara will cost in excess of €70m, with President Joey Saputo investing €40m and the municipality of Bologna supplying the additional €30m, otherwise known as a PPP (Public Private Partnership).

The PPP model has already been implemented in Germany and France to great success, with both countries doing so ahead of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2016. It’s hoped that a PPP-driven reconstruction of the Dall’Ara, if a success, could lead to further clubs becoming home-owners.

As you might’ve noticed, all these projects – bar Roma – are reconstructing existing sites. That speeds things up considerably, as most of the Stadio Della Roma issues have been around infrastructure, transport and public order, needing to create new roads, bridges and even a Metro station to reach the site.

In the 2000s, many of the leading figures in the Italian game took a rather placid attitude towards their stadiums. They rested on their laurels, believing the key to reinvigorating them was through hosting a major international competition, effectively hoping the government of the day would invest where they wouldn’t.

This resulted in Italy bidding to host Euro 2012 and 2016. In the bidding for the latter, they didn’t gain a single vote in the second round, all the while their structures aged and crumbled, becoming public eyesores.

President of the Italian Football Federation, Gabriele Gravina, has again spoken of a desire to see Italy host Euro 2028. Yet what separates a potential 2028 bid from the failed attempts of 2012 and 2016 is the recent pro-active approach from clubs in the peninsula. There’s a recognition that the clubs should’ve and could’ve done more to alleviate the situation.

The stadium issue has once again been in the public discourse when FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, speaking to Rai, declared that Gabon has a superior stadium infrastructure than Italy. Those comments, as expected, didn’t go down well. Several days later, La Repubblica revealed that Inter and Milan are actively pursuing a new stadium.

Whilst we have heard this before, many times before in fact, it seems concrete steps are being taken by Milan’s owners Elliott Management, and Inter patrons Suning, to build a new stadium on the site of the current San Siro. Modelled on the MetLife stadium in New York, the capacity would total 60,000 and have a retractable roof, an interchangeable pitch and various other mod cons that come with all modern stadia, at a projected cost of €600m.

A successful bid for Euro 2028 would be the final push needed to oversee Italy’s entry into the modern game. New stadiums wouldn’t solve all the league’s ills, but would it scratch its biggest, deepest itch.

Have your say...
I heard Napoli president wants his big club become a small club by building a 20,000 seat stadium. Talk about small ambitions. What a shame.
on the 13th September, 2019 at 3:12am
Napoli must build a new arena... 45,000 capacity with ability to expand for "big events" - It's barely safe..
on the 11th March, 2019 at 1:02am
Italy needs to renovate not only stadiums, but the road and bridges and the main obstacle to do so is the the law and the number of authorities who are in charge to approve the projects. It’s a shame that this beautiful country looks decrepit and tired more and more.
on the 10th March, 2019 at 6:27pm
I'm a Milan fan since 1992 & have to say the idea of crushing San Siro, instead of renovating it, is terrible! How come Real or Barca aren't rumbling their own stadiums & build new ones, but instead renovate them! 'Cause HISTORY MEANS! Can you imagine Man-Utd doing the same with Old Trafford?! I don't think so...
And for what? So that Milan & INter continue sharing that stadium? HORROR! When will we finally have our own arena so that other fans would stop making jokes at our expense (justified)
on the 8th March, 2019 at 9:07pm
Good news. I love the designs of some of those old Italian stadiums so to have them renovated while still incorporating some of the old design sounds good. I hope they all don't go down the English 'Juve' route by downsizing n I hope if they do build new stadiums that they aren't all a carbon copy of each other. I like Juve's new stadium but Milan n Inter 60.000 is not going to be big enough for big matches in Italy n Europe. Unless they do leave room to expand them!
on the 7th March, 2019 at 10:35pm
It's a step in the right direction. Juve are even in talks of expanding their stadia to 50,000.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 9:41pm
Issue is new stadiums decrease the land value of urban areas. Pair with that most clubs demand the city to subsidize capital costs and you can see why new stadium projects are in eternal negotiations, especially for clubs that want their stadium on valuable city land like Roma. From the city's perspective, the new stadium will be a detriment to the neighbourhood. On one hand, the club needs the stadium. On the other, the community suffers. The process is not as easy as you might think.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 9:34pm
Don't believe any new stadium in Italy is going to happen until they actually start building it.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 4:59pm
Remember when Sassuolo joined Seria A few years ago? The club was playing their games in Modena! And only few years after that they own a stadium. While big clubs like Napoli , Milan or Inter are nowhere in prospect. Shame.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 3:17pm
Renovations of small old stadiums to renovated small old stadiums.Hardly anything to be excited about.Only Roma's is worth knowing about.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 3:04pm
I was at the Napoli v Juve game on Sunday. The atmosphere and passion was amazing but sadly the stadium was shocking. Lack of amenities just means that Napoli are the ones who lose out. Until clubs break the link with the municipalities and realise that they need to take responsibility for having a modern stadium Serie A will never improve.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 12:58pm
Why don't fans in Italy pressurise the ELECTED government officials to do something about the dire state of stadiums? They come around for asking votes during elections so why don't they take up this glaring issue? Better stadium earn more revenue for the government & clubs both! As a fan outside Italy, this issue looks is difficult to understand why is this still such a big of a problem!
on the 7th March, 2019 at 12:54pm
The top clubs representing Italy in Europe must build new grounds.
Inter: 61.000 seater stadium
Milan: 61.000 seater stadium
Napoli: 51.000 seater stadium
Roma: 51.000 seater stadium
Lazio: 41.000 seater stadium
Fiorentina: 41.000 seater stadium.
Along with Juventus, 41.507, they should all have new grounds.
The rest should aim at 18.000-30.000.
I strongly believe the Milan clubs should have their own stadiums and not share.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 12:26pm
Don't hold your breath with Italy and stadiums.

But there has been progress in the last 10 years compared to the previous 10, and now these approvals may speed things up further.

I was at Napoli last year and although it looks spectacular from the outside all lit up at night, the state of the stadium inside is poor and like something from the 80s.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 11:18am
Not Napoli. Thank you ADL
on the 7th March, 2019 at 10:36am
New stadiums are not important, but imperative, if the clubs want to compete against other nations.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 9:54am
Unfortunetly the biggest omission in this article is Napoli... They probably have the worst ground in Serie A and currently have no plans to create or reconstruct their stadium. Thankfully the 2019 Universiade is being held in Naples and they are doing some revamp work on the stadium for this, including all new seats, but it is simply a lick of paint on a sadly decrepit stadium.
on the 7th March, 2019 at 9:36am
As Romanista, I surely hope the Stadio della Roma be materialized asap.
Too many bureaucrazy have been preventing clubs to step forward for their own good.

I have questions tho
01. Are there also bureaucrazy in other leagues coz I don't think so
02. To Milanisti & Interisti, if clubs like Udinese or Sassuolo can have their own stadium, why can't your teams have your own?

Daje Roma !
on the 7th March, 2019 at 9:34am

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