Milan is undefeated in three games and some pride has been restored in this miserable season for the rossoneri tifosi. Yet the speculation about the future of the team remains, whether Silvio Berlusconi will sell the team or a minority interest. Given Milan’s recent tendency of acquiring players via a free transfer, questions have also been raised about the club’s desire to invest to improve the roster by spending actual dollars.
CEO Barbara Berlusconi, at the official presentation of Casa Milan today, spoke of Milan’s future. “My father and Fininvest want to continue to invest in this asset.” She also discussed the possibility of selling a minority interest in the club and building a new stadium. “Today is the fruit of two years of dreams for both myself and many other people. Milan is much more than a business and is in fact more like a family, we needed a bigger house. It was sad to leave the club’s historical headquarters in Via Turati, but Casa Milan is now much more than our club headquarters. It’s a courageous operation which will help our brand to grow and will become a key asset for the club.
It’s a tough time economically but we have a strong belief in this club and our new headquarters will provide a new development model for us. The commitment of my family towards the club has never been lacking. This project is part of a wider commercial strategy which will increase club income and allow us to invest in new players. Our three year plan is to develop commercial opportunities through a structured marketing and merchandising operation especially in Asia and the Middle east.
We are looking into having our own stadium that would allow us to compete more economically with the powerful clubs in Europe. What we’re trying to create is a union and participation through the club museum, the club store, (managed directly by the club for the first time) and the club restaurant.
The location in Portello is a strategic one, close to the stadium, and we hope that we can increase Milan’s social commitments which have always been a priority for us. We hope that in the future, the fans will gather here to celebrate future victories”.
Rumours of potential sale of club
Barbara Berlusconi denied all rumours about a potential sale of the club: “There’s been reports about a sale of the club, but it’s not true. We believe in this team. We want to obtain the best results. A partnership would be considered. For the construction of a new stadium for example, a partnership would be of great help. Our next visits to Asia and USA are with this aim in mind. My relationship with Galliani is extremely good and we’ve found a new common understanding and vision. As for the fans, their role has to be respected. Everybody wants to see their team win. These delicate moments need to be dealt with and we’re working with them. I’m hoping that we can make peace again through our results. In the past 2 years we’ve dealt with the losses in a significant manner. We’ve always invested a lot in the club and we’ll continue to do so. However, a single commercial initiative isn’t enough to resolve this. Various initiatives will give renewed energy to Milan and Finivest.”
Barbara Berlusconi interview with four four two
To provide additional context and backround to today’s announcement, here is a translation of her interview
February 2014 marked 28 years of the Berlusconi era in Milan. When your father entered Via Turati, you still were not born. What is your first rossoneri memory?
“I don’t remember one in particular. Even as a small child, my father often took me to San Siro. Since then I have not stopped rejoicing and suffering as a Milanista.”
What is Milan and what does it represent for you – an special token of the heart, a business, or both?
“Both of these things.”
What is your real relationship with Galliani today?
“In previous months, there certainly was a difference of opinion with Galliani, but today its more positive. We hade an important constructive debate that concerned all areas of the club which will bring significant changes. I am certain this new common ground and clear objectives can only be good for Milan.”
The football world is still very male-dominated. How do you see the role of women in football?
“I do not see the presence of women as a merit or added value. But simply as a fact. Women are increasingly playing key roles in football clubs, and this is because clubs are now companies and football is a business. In all companies the number and importance of women is constantly growing.”
Why has Italian football has lost its appeal in the last few years?
“It has underestimated the European competition which, season after season, has earned market share, taking portions of revenues from our important clubs. In 2000, three of the first five clubs in Europe, by revenue, were Italian. Today we are far behind. The model of football of the future is inevitably a mix of sporting success and the capacity to obtain commercial, financial and managerial results. And the best results on the field will go to those who have been able to adopt a structured and efficient commercial strategy.”
Which country would you cite as an example?
“Germany, with stadiums that are owned by the clubs with significant sponsorships are clearly the example to follow. Their accounts are in order, stadiums full of fans, development of commercial activity and many young players on the field. We must always remember that football is not only a business for those who earn millions of euros, but also for the many jobs it can create.”
Is football is an industry then?
“It produces a turnover of about 8B euros in our country. But above all it produces, for the state, revenue of more than 1m euros. For this and for the social value it provides to the millions of fans, you cannot say it is an entertainment industry like any other.”
Do you have ideas on how to boost Milan in the sporting sector?
“These are matters within Adriano Galliani’s expertise. Milan is facing a major reorganisation. It is gearing up as best it can to face the new challenges of football that has definitely changed. We will depend very much on the youth, on a structure of scouts able to discover new talent around the world. But this without giving up on the big purchases – the top players.”
To create a strong squad without spending money or to create revenue in order to become a strong squad. Which is your path?
“Both of these things. The objective is to sign young talent before they become top players and before the costs can be difficult for us to sustain. To increase the revenue, then, is a central challenge for us. Only this way can we self-finance, improve the structure and allow ourselves some more top players. It is a challenge that will give us the first results in the medium term, not before three years.”
The choice of Seedorf , did you agree with your father?
“No, he was the choice of my father.”
Who was the best coach of Milan under Berlusconi and why? Which player is the symbol of his Milan?
“I don’t have one in particular. Many have contributed to our success.”
You are a young woma and mother of two children – how do you reconcile your love for them and the desire to be close to them as long as possible, considering the amount of work commitments you have every day? How difficult is it to have little or no privacy, as the spotlight will always be brighter on you?
“I am a privileged woman as I can count on trustworthy people to help me look after my children. I have two valuable people in my mother Veronica and sister Eleonora. So I can count on a lot of help during the day, to manage the kids and their movements, without being in constant anxiety. I am fortunate, but it is not easy. The commitments are always increasing, the pressure is not lacking – but the job requires me to always be present.”
What does it mean, in the Italy of 2014, to be the third daughter of Silvio Berlusconi, the vice-president and managing director of Milan? The envious individuals that, in this case, are often also frustrated, say that you are favoured by your connections. The fans answer back that you are a woman of 29, educated, prepared, with clear ideas and ready to take charge of Milan. What is your response to one and the other?
“Everyone has the right to express an opinion and certainly, I repeat, I find myself in a privileged position. I would like, however, to be judged on the content and on the ideas that I have brought forward in these three years at Milan. I like the debate – the criticism does not scare me when it is constructive. I love to discuss and hear other opinions. However, it is necessary to take decisions, above all when you are deeply convinced.”
A good chunk of directors in Italian football are attached to their prestigious seats and belong to the Mesozoic era. There are directors that hold executive positions from before the fall of the Berlin Wall – with all respect to these people, when will the demolition [of this system] begin? Do you intend to contribute?
“I am not in the habit of using the generational flag as a stick against those who are older. There are prepared and valid people that, although they are not younger, are an added value thanks to their experience and ability. I am convinced, however, that a certain renewal is always desirable in order to avoid the formation of interest groups that block any change.”
A question on the stadium – can you confirm that Milan want to build one of its own?
“I can confirm that we are evaluating alternative solutions to San Siro, but decisions have not yet been taken because the issue is very complex. It requires an in-depth analysis that is already underway with my colleagues.”
Do you think there is a way to solve the problem of stadium revenues?
“Yes, with the construction of owned stadia. The Italian stadia are feeling the effects of time. They were designed for the 1990 World Cup. Today, the stadium should be a place where the entertainment is not just for the 90 minutes of a match, but for seven days a week. I would like, for example, to see families spend an entire afternoon of the match inside a structure that can offer its customers restaurants, bars, gyms, rooms for meetings and conferences. Only this way can we increase revenues.”
At the derby you met Thohir – what impression did he make? What is Inter to you – an historic rival or, in today’s football, a rival like the others?
“Thohir is friendly and helpful. I have great respect for our cousins. I cannot call Inter a team like the others. There is great rivalry, but also respect that is an historic feature of Milan and Milanesi.”
Racism, incivility, curva closures that are then reopened by a sporting justice system incapable of applying its own rules. What do you promise to do against this phenomenon?
“On episodes of racism I have expressed my opinion several times – for me there must be zero tolerance. For too long it was a case of pretending to not see not hear it. After the Boateng case finally something has changed.”
Financial Fair Play is a utopia or a set of rules that will work? Does it scare you?
“We will see if it is only a slogan or if it will truly be applied. It certainly requires a totally different management philosophy. Owners will have strong limits on the possibility to cover losses, and not because they don’t want to, but because this measure will not allow it anymore. Milan, in any case, like the other Italian clubs, is being called to win the ‘challenge of modernism’. We must structure ourselves to compete in international markets, to attract new commercial partners, to look to emerging countries, to grow brand awareness, to renew structures, to manage the brand 360 degrees. And above all, to diversify the revenues. All of our efforts and energy can no longer be spent in the sporting phase.”
But do you share the definition of Financial Fair Play?
“Today, this is the only way possible. And not just because UEFA imposes it, but because I am convinced of this. Today, only 9% of the financial resources of a club are made up of what they own, or rather their capital. The bank debts today are very heavy. It means that the people in football in reality do not possess anything, or they possess only a small part, and that if one day the banks can no longer sustain them, this reality will be destined to collapse.”
Is the measure of success of a club the results on the pitch?
“The results on the pitch are essential, but they are not everything. At the end of the 90s, many clubs invested their revenues from TV rights in wages and not to renew structures and create value. But this way nothing is left for the stadia or for development. In this sense, a club like Arsenal has followed the opposite philosophy – fewer sporting results, but a greater spectacle and commercial results. You can like it or not, but it is a model you have to watch with interest.”
For you football is a spectacle like the others?
“Not really, that’s a simple statement. Our business, however, is to make a spectacle and offer entertainment. But football is also something more. As I have already had the chance to say – in football racial, social, political and economic differences between people do not exist. Football makes us all equal and all free – the despair and suffering of the mayor of the city of London is the same as that of a child in the suburbs of Soweto, the descendants of the Incas in Lima, the workers in the queue of the Tokyo metro. Football is the language of the world because we have not yet found anything on Earth with the same strength of narrative, something that generates the same power of identification between people.”
Is it true that you will open a new museum?
“The museum is only a part of the project that is under construction and that I have strongly wanted. First of all, a few months ago Milan changed location. Now our offices are modern and designed by a famous Italian designer, Fabio Novembre. But the new venue will be a real attraction open to anyone, Italians and foreigners, who want to come and visit us. As well as the museum, they will find a shop and a restaurant. All in the name of innovation and design. A place that will allow us, every day, to be put in contact with Milan fans.”