Wednesday September 9 2020
Stadium law can transform Serie A

The law treating antiquated stadiums as precious antiques to be protected could finally change, and Richard Hall sees it as a transformative moment for Calcio.

Have you ever seen the proposed design for the new Napoli Stadium? What about the renovation of Bologna? How about that Siena re-model with the grass roof (yes grass, not glass)? Or the Stadio Della Roma project that has been going for pretty much a decade at this point?

For fans of Serie A, these proposed structures are a huge source of amusement, as many already know that bureaucracy will gobble these up before the plans are even put together. Even if one did manage to slip through, it still would cause suspicion, as the thought would be it would probably end up a ‘white elephant’ like the San Nicola in Bari. Things are changing, however, and soon the landscape of Italian football could be forever transformed.

The state of the current stadia in Italy is genuinely concerning. If you take away the likes of Juventus and Udinese, most of the current crop of teams have stadiums that hark back to Italia ‘90 or worse. Take Fiorentina’s Stadio Artemio Franchi, for instance, or Bologna’s Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. They are both beautiful arenas that stand out from the ‘flat pack Ikea’ looking structures of some other European grounds. The problem is, there are no club shops, the facilities are inadequate, poor bars, terrible Wi-Fi for press and they do not enhance the fan experience. Others, like the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, literally had chunks coming off the walls and water pouring into the press box every time it rained.

Compare this to Arsenal in the UK. They have a modern stadium, created to make the most of the fan experience. They look to sell tickets abroad, so their ideal visitor is not necessarily the season ticket holders (these are expensive), but more so the fan who comes once, buys drinks, food and spends a lot of money in ‘The Armoury’ their massive club shop. This fan spends money, as they try to make the most of their visit. The fan has everything. Notice I did not say atmosphere, because you cannot charge for atmosphere.

With this being the case, Italian clubs are missing huge opportunity to maximise their revenue. So why do they not simply upgrade the stadiums? Surely they can do this, albeit in more of a Bundesliga manner so they can keep space for Ultras, corporate and families? Wrong. For many years, the debate has been two-fold. Most of the clubs rent and do not own their own stadiums, so who invests, the local authorities or the club? Secondly, laws originally meant for buildings of architectural importance, hamper practically all renovation projects.

Change is needed and now it looks like it may be happening. The Italian Government has looked at the national game and realised it is a business. As Italy’s economy has been decimated by the COVID pandemic, it needs a kick-start and football is one area they have identified. They have focused on the stadiums and looking to put together a stimulus package called the ‘Shock Plan’.

Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been behind a movement that calls for the aforementioned limitations to be lifted, so clubs can re-build or at least renovate. “It’s essential we remove the urban development limitations. It’s unthinkable that San Siro can be renovated, but not the Stadio Franchi in Florence.”

The Franchi has struggled to get redevelopment plans, ironically, as the sheer age of the stadium means it falls under the legislation as . Even in Italia ‘90, the renovation was so limited that it did not change the structure. Compare this to San Siro, this could be torn down because it had major renovation works done 30 years ago to fundamentally change the shape. Stadiums in Italy are seen not as antiquated, but antiques.

Over the next few days, the so-called ‘Sbloccastadi – Stadium unblocker’ will be voted through in the Senate. If passe,d it may see a huge overhaul of Italian football stadiums, as clubs decide to rebuild or, like Fiorentina, renovate. For anyone who wants to know if this will be a success, look at Juventus. The modern stadium not only increases revenue, but it also helps recruitment, as players want to come to an Italian city, but they also want modern facilities. This in turn keeps the seats filled and the circle continues. Just look at Juve’s share price in the last few years.

The knock-on effect moves to TV rights, this is the major key. Cameras want to show atmosphere and full seats. If they see this and better players, then the money for the rights increases, this filters to the club and recruitment becomes better, the cycle continues again. Italy are already taking strides to stealing some top players from the major leagues and the timing of these stadium laws could be critical.

Italy sells itself to the world already. This is why people still love Italia ‘90, they loved Serie A in the 1990’s and they still love the atmosphere on the Curva. If Italy can model themselves on the Bundesliga stadiums, the league will rocket its way to a position of strength. They will be more appealing to the world’s top players and the TV rights will come. Italian stadiums may soon have room for families, corporate, Ultra and season ticket holders alike and the visual spectacle will be immense. This will not happen overnight, but when it does, it will be some much-needed tender love and care.

Have your say...
I agree that many Italian stadiums need to be replaced or renovated, BUT IN THE RIGHT WAY. The great thing about Italy and all of Europe are the historical structures dating back centuries or even millennia. To put a spaceship like Arsenal's Emirates or Bayern's Allianz in the middle of Rome, Milan, etc. is an insult to Italian culture and history. If new stadiums are to be built, the exteriors of the stadiums should be made to look like they have been around for centuries--works of art......
on the 12th September, 2020 at 11:59pm
@Chris, you cannot locate a 60,000 seat stadium in the heart of Milan or any other major Italian city... too many historical structures, densities are too high... in North America its not too difficult to build a stadium in or near the downtown core... In Italy, it's very challenging due to the layout of their cities... the old stadiums built long ago were weaved into the old cities, but a modern stadium is a different story.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 10:35am
I agree with this article for the most part but I feel like in Italy the stadiums are very standalone which may be because the local municipalities don't want to take the commerce related to football out of the city centre, like the club stores. Location is important too. In Milan, it used to be a 20 minute underground journey and then a 25 minute walk and although the new Purple line has made it faster but it's still a long way away from the heart of the city.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 3:19pm
@House Party, many if not most of the Italia 90 stadiums were/are ugly.. the worst part is the running track around the pitch... how many track and field events do they have in Italy?!

I remember go to the Olimpico in 1988 for the World Track and Field meet.. couldn't believe were were sitting on bench type seats! That's what we use in high schools here...In my opinion almost all of the stadiums in Italy should be torn down.. starting with San Paolo.
on the 11th September, 2020 at 10:34am
local fans too. A great atmosphere was always a pull in serie a's heyday. I'll be sad to see some of Italia 90 ones go though. They may not have been the best for facilities or the terrace-view but they're still impressive structures with beautiful designs. I hope they don't all downsize either. The potential is there, Inter had an ave of 65,000 before lockdown. Ideally they'd be a merge of unique, Italian-style, multi-purpose venues with atmosphere, comfort + facilities also in mind. No Ikea!
on the 10th September, 2020 at 6:29pm
That was a good article. I feel like they will do it + make positive changes this time! There is something afoot in serie a + it's time to acknowledge it. A lot of new investment, the decision to create a global media company, article after article in the Brit press said that it'd never happen as Italian clubs can never agree but all 20 clubs voted for it + now this stadium law! I hope Italy finds its own way but I do hope it follows the Bundesliga more rather than The Prem. And cater for the
on the 10th September, 2020 at 6:08pm
The reason for the eternal inaction is simply that Italian bureaucrats love power for the sake power. They love that Calcio and powerful business entities must bow to them. It's a game for them; negotiate, stall, negotiate some more, seem to agree, then kill the deal. Just ask Ms. Raggi.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 6:00pm
Same old story, if you don't pay/grease certain people, it will never happen. This is how its been and will continue to be in Italy. Too difficult to do business in that country when it comes to certain areas. Sad, but true.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 3:43pm
I'm an American whose teams have all built shiny new stadiums with big scoreboards and club shops and fancy private boxes, and they're all terrible.
The prices for everything are way too high, including the jerseys in the club shop and the beers in the bars. They're built for tourists who come once a year and stay for half the game. They spend the game in the bars or club shop and don't bother to actually watch the game from their seats. The stadiums all look basically the same, too.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 3:36pm
Having your own stadium would give clubs between 10-50 mill euros more per season. So imagine Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma and Lazio could all spend 50 mill on a super star - that would mean better players for Serie A and more prestige.

The numbers are based on how Juventus improved their finances.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 2:32pm
Milan 60.000
Inter 60.000
Roma 50.000
Lazio 45.000
Napoli 45.000
Fiorentina 40.000
Bologna 30.000
Sampdori 30.000
Genoa 30.000
Torino 30.000
The rest 20.000-25.000

Juventus have 41.500 seats
on the 10th September, 2020 at 2:25pm
As one comment says, I'll believe it when I see it! In the mean time, we're again at the same place, watching ancient stadiums, making Serie A look obsolete & far from the likes of Spain, Germany or England (Hell, even look at Russian PL - it's look is the same as Bundes)!
And since the article says Fiorentina will renovate, instead of building that gorgeous looking new stadium we'd been shown all these years, it's obvious something stinks again! A makeover instead a new one!
on the 10th September, 2020 at 1:20pm
It seems everyone except the Italian authorities can see the benefits to building/renovating the stadiums. A good article and I hope we see some movement on the stadiums but as mentioned in a previous comment, I’ll believe it when I see it!!
on the 10th September, 2020 at 12:54pm
Great article. Hope for the best. The clubs should take their current average attendance and add another 25 percent seats to more or less fill the stadiums.
If a club has 28.000 spectators they should build a 35.000 seater stadium.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 12:30pm
The law is so poor I can't beleive it's stood for this long. I completely agree you can't just tear down historical monuments but the buildings built in the 60s,70s,80s etc are hardly ancient artefacts. They're mostly outdated and dangerous. I vist my family in Italy frequently and the amount of abandoned, crumbling down buildings that have just been left to rot is astonishing. If they were allowed to be modernised and brought into the 21st century you wouldn't have this problem.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 11:52am
@Dan , agreed.. yes, preserve your historic buildings, monuments, etc.. but we are talking about stadium built in the 20th century, not the Colosseum.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 10:28am
"Stadium unblocker’ will be voted through in the Senate. If passed..."

Here's your problem... I am a fiercely proud Italo-Cdn... Love Italy.. but for the better part of 1500 years, Italians have not worked in concert for the betterment of Italy..
on the 10th September, 2020 at 10:26am
continuation.. to sports. The legalities that clubs face in regards to refurbishment or rebuilding of a new stadium is simply laughable. I understand that history and tradition should be preserved and respected, but only to an extent. I think only until the "stadium blocker/unblocker law is ratified by the Government and that we as diehard Serie A fans can see work commence and completed on these stadiums, then i feel only until we have another Italia 90' will we see significant progress made.
on the 10th September, 2020 at 3:13am
Richard Hall, your article is completely on point! It is quite demoralising to witness how completely dilapidated and inadequate Italy's current stadiums are for today's standards. Italy has not evolved enough in this respect albeit for a select few who have taken the initiative, (namely Udinese and Juventus to start with) that have clearly identified how imperative it is to have a stadium that is not just for football, but a multi-faceted arena that caters for a wide range of uses not limited..
on the 10th September, 2020 at 3:02am
I’ll believe it when I see it. In the meantime Italy... please let me believe!!!
on the 10th September, 2020 at 12:34am

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