In recent years football fans got used to seeing Italian club Juventus at the top of the league. Since the return of the Old Lady to the Serie A in the 2007/08 season, Juventus have not only been the number one club in Italy for the past six years, it is also the Italian club that generates the most revenue. According to Deloitte’s Football Money League report, Juventus generated €341M in revenue, 13% of them related to match day.
A deeper look into the report and the Italian clubs that feature in it such as AS Roma and the two Milan clubs (Inter and AC), their matchday revenue percentage out of total revenue is very similar to Juventus’s. So what’s the difference? These clubs generate less money and play in larger stadiums than the Juventus arena. Two months ago the Juventus Arena joined the Allianz stadium family by agreeing on a naming rights deal to be renamed the Allianz Stadium.
Juventus’s advantage in matchday revenue is not random. When Juventus inaugurated the Juventus Arena in 2011 instead of the old Delle Alpi it became the first club in Italy to have stadium ownership while other clubs in Italy still rent a stadium from the local council. The main reason is for municipally owned stadiums is regulation and financial power of Italian clubs but this is starting to change now.
In 2013, newly promoted Sassuolo not only joined the Serie A for the first time in its history but also became another club to own its stadium. The change of ownership occurred to the power of the club’s owner, Giorgio Squinzzi, who also owns the company Mapei, an industrial materials manufacturer. When the stadium changed hands it also changed names to the Mapei Stadium.
A year and a half ago, the stadium owning duo became a trio when Udinese manage to fund the purchase of the Friuli Stadium. The club renovated the existing stadium and secured a naming rights deal with Romanian car manufacturer Dacia.
Continuing the club owned stadiums trend is Atalanta. This May the club won the bidding presented by the city of Bergamo to own the local stadium for a fee of €8.6M. On the 8th of August, the ownership by Atalanta was officially confirmed. Since this date, the club has six months to present the stadium development plans. Also on that day, Atalanta took to its Twitter account and published a fan questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to examine whether the possibility of using crowdfunding to assist the club in business development.
One of the questions is testing in which kind of projects fans would be willing to invest. Among the options are stadium development and fan experience related projects but also the option of establishing a modern medical centre for the use of the club and the people of Bergamo.
It seems that Italian football clubs are beginning to understand that through the league and the football federation progress won’t be made and are starting to take matters into their own hands.
Earlier this year, AS Roma, decided that it is time to leave the Stadio Olimpico and the club’s new stadium plans were approved. The plans reveal a 52,500 all-seater stadium with the possibility to be expanded into 60,000. The stadium is designed to host other activities besides football such as concerts. According to the project’s official website, the total investment is estimated at 2 billion euros, 400M of them dedicated solely to the stadium. In addition to the new stadiums, the project consists of a regeneration of an undeveloped area between the city of Rome and its airport by developing commercial and entertainment centres. It is believed that AS Roma will be able to host games at the new stadium from the 2020-21 season.
(Illustration of AS Roma’s New Stadium and Surrounding Area, Source: official project website)
An antoher club that revealed plans similar to those of the capital club is Fiorentina. The development of the new stadium is acting as the driver to the regeneration of an area similar to the one in Rome. In Florence, there will be a park, a commercial centre and a sports centre. The investment in the project is estimated around €420M. This sum proves to be difficult for the club to invest on its own and will seek for investors to help. The club is hoping to start construction in 2019.
Stadium Retirement Age
In an annual report released by the FIGC, the average attendance in the Serie A during the 2015-16 season was 56%. This situation led to the remaining 44% to be worth of 16.1 million empty seats along the season. Estimations reveal that these empty seats could have generated an additional revenue of €270m to the league. Despite Juventus’s new stadium and Udinese’s renovated one the average age of Serie A stadiums stands on 69 years. Add to the mix of old stadium an average ticket price of €25, the equivalent of 36% of average Italian daily income. Perhaps when there will be new stadiums ticket prices will rise but at least there will be a suitable reward.
Italian football got stuck behind not only because of the state of its stadiums, but they are part of a cycle that won’t be resolved unless there are new facilities. The TV rights of the Serie A have been sold to Infront Sport until 2021 and this agreement is expected to bring a revenue of €990m. Total revenues of the Serie A for 2016/17 stand on €1.9 billion. This places Italian football behind the Premier League, Bundesliga and LaLiga.
The state of stadiums in Italy together with low attendance figure creates a “product” that is less attractive on tv and for tv rights holders.
New and full stadiums will make Italian football look better on TV which will lead to higher TV revenue. In addition, new stadiums will act as a pull factor for new sponsors or improving current deals which will allow the clubs to improve their commercial revenues, and of course its matchday revenues through more VIP seats.
A recent document published by the OECD in June this year present contradicting situations in Italy’s economy. However, the overall forecast is that Italy’s economy will continue to recover moderately. A growth in GDP and in private investments (club ownership on stadiums is a part) is at risk due to possible changes such as the internal relations within the EU or missing out on positive export forecasts.
IA year ago Italy pulled its offer to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 together with the cancellation of Rome’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics on the basis that these events will come with a burden on Rome and Italy of heavy debts which the country doesn’t need at the moment.
Maybe in the future, when Italy will already have new and improved privately funded stadiums, the country will be able to contest on hosting major sports event with reduced risk in terms of debt and politics (Brazil 2014 and the Rio 2016 Olympics for instance). What’s sure is that Italy and Italian football needs these new stadiums. Forza Italia.