Football Italia – The Way Ahead
In my first piece I looked at what I saw as fundamental issues with the Italian game, or rather, “where Calcio’s getting it wrong.” I finished that piece with the promise of “where the Italian game can change and how it should be done, in my eyes.”
Italians need to change their game plan. In his continuing analysis of Football Italia, Gino de Blasio shows the path ahead by listing ways in which they can begin to execute it
So here it is.
The current stadiums are fine for a World Cup; in fact they were indeed fine probably until the year 2000. But now, new stadiums have taken the mantle of the biggest, the best and the most technologically advanced.
The thought of having to rip apart the Meazza, or the San Paolo is tear-inducing. These are iconic bits of landscape that resonate with the local communities. However, they seriously need some looking at.
Take The Allianz or Wembley or even… well, something closer to home, Juventus Arena. They have something in common. Realistic Attendance Seating or RAS, as I like to call it. Put it this way. You open a coffee shop. You know that coffee shop can manage the demand over the year of 10,000 people, so why make it try and accommodate more than that?
It’s a business fallacy. If you can guarantee an 85% attendance rate every match, in a suitable sized arena – say a 40,000 seater with an average ticket price of €35 – that ensures a €1.19 million turnover per game. Yes, admittedly, you could achieve that with a 65% attendance for the same price in a 90,000 seater; however, that would mean attracting 58,500 attendees – that’s 24,000 more people.
And it’s not just an attendance calculation, there has to be a focus on marshalling and policing as well. It has to be a way to better secure matches from the violent ultras, and embracing new technologies.
2) Keep the Ultras
Everyone talks about the Ultras. The thing is, when you spend time in an ultra curva, you realise that the biggest denominator is actually football. Yes, there are political affiliations with some, there also are elements to the intimidation; but you can’t just chastise a group of extremely loyal fans.
What clubs need to do is better identify and understand the attitude and mentality of the ultra. Fight the problem from within than from outside; educate and address rather than throw into jail and point the finger.
The ultras gave the Italian game flare years ago, now they are more likely to throw them at an official. The issue needs to be looked at more carefully.
3) The grassroots are the grassroots
We need to drill home the importance of ‘grassroots football’ — how home-bred talent can develop and flourish within the league, and actually I think Italy is one of the better positioned nations right now to do this.
The clubs are financially struggling, and they will continue to do so without the mega oil-rich nations taking over. So they need a plan to generate interest, get better coaches, staff and equipment to analyse and focus on overall player development.
At the last Euro, we saw that the average age of the Italy squad had been reduced; we also saw the second week game of Milan introducing 10 Italian players – something which hadn’t happened since Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan of ‘87.
The game needs more accessibility. In southern Italy, where my family is from, ‘a kickaround in the street’, is still literally the street; needless to say I did get a reputation for smashing more than my fair share of car windows. So there needs to be a look at facilities and opportunities to develop football players and coaches at the same time.
4) Destroy the analysis
“Italy has a massive problem. Everyone is a football manager,” said my old coach, Mr. Simone. He isn’t wrong. You will find people analysing the tactical and physical attributes of the game played. This, however, isn’t the real problem.
The real problem lies in the Sunday night analysis, by four major TV stations with guests etc. The over-analysis seeps into the early hours and everyone ends up reiterating what was already said the night before rather than what they saw, if indeed they saw anything to begin with.
Analysis should be left to the football managers and referees; I’m probably asking too much but I can always dream.
5) Open up to new ideas from ‘distant’ neighbours
Ok, by now you must be all wondering what I have been smoking.
I, in all conscience, believe that we can learn in football from other nations too. We can all see what we can do better and what we can avoid doing in the future.
I think these lessons can be learnt from the neighbours in Germany, who have club ownership ideas like no other; England, where TV revenues and sponsorship are masterfully done; Spain, where academies are flourishing with the best and brightest; Switzerland, in how it develops business practices, and the list could go on and on.
I think there needs to be a permanent committee in place which all clubs can approach and make use of each other’s know–how to drastically reduce risk to them and the fans.
We neither want clubs closing down because of financial mismanagement, nor do we want any more security issues. We need fans to be interacting, supporting and supplying the enthusiasm within the stadium and when they leave, so a new generation can always grow with their team rather than fear its future.
So, those were just a few points, I have a thousand more but I think these first five are ones which need a little more attention now than the others.