“The time is now for serious reform to ensure a successful future.”
By: Michael Rizzo
The simple truth is, it’s time for FIGC to get serious or Italian Football will never again be near the top. A major overhaul is needed to ensure the future of football in Italy. The following five recommendations would also improve the Italian economy, so there is good reason Matteo Renzi and his government would be supportive as well.
- International Marketing – The Italian League can’t survive financially without an international audience. They should use a centralized model, where each Serie A club would be required to contribute to a centralized marketing organization. They would each have an international east & west marketing person. They also should centralize their websites like MLB, which has a centralized digitalize architecture with each club’s marketing teams working from that platform. This would ensure each club has a strong web presence that is available and translated for international markets.
- Club Reduction – Italy must cut the number of professional clubs to at most 80. Right now from Serie A to Serie C, there are ninety six clubs (20+22+54). I suggest going to; Serie A (20), Serie B (20), Serie C, two 20 club leagues. This would improve the finances of the Italian leagues by providing more money to fewer clubs. FIGC should target the 2020 season as the deadline to reduce to 80 clubs.
- Merge Clubs – This would be wildly unpopular, but let’s separate the unpopular from smart business decisions. Trust me, the fans would learn to coexist quickly, especially when the football improves. The best way to get to 80 clubs is through mergers. A perfect example is Hellas & Chevio both clubs are bouncing between Serie A & B, combined they would challenge for Europe each year, which would be great for the city of Verona. Stronger clubs would have the resources to improve the fan experiences and stadiums. There are a lot of regional clubs that would be much better off merged as well. How about Livorno, Pisa, and Lucca joining forces to create Toscana FC, they could be in Serie A easy. Given their situations, I think Inter and Milan should at least consider it as well, it could solve both club’s problems.
- New & Improve Stadiums – this is a no brainer, and everyone knows it, except for some reason the clubs and government can’t get on the same. I actually believe it’s because the clubs have no cash. I suggest FIGC creates a Stadium Committee, works closely with the Italian Government. It’s no secret that owning their own stadiums provides clubs with more financial stability. The committee should help clubs negotiate with municipalities for ownerships of the stadiums, and also help clubs plan for building new stadiums. If you merge some clubs and improve the finances, you’ll have clubs with the resources to build new or revamping stadiums.
- Expand the Champions League – The only way for European Football to remain the best in the world without destroying the domestic leagues is to expand the Champions League to 64 clubs. The key to this expansion is to take more clubs from the top leagues. This would pump a tremendous amount of money in the key leagues, and allow their top clubs to flourish. It also would cut back on the amount of players transfers and make domestic leagues stronger. My recommended scenario would have the top five leagues receiving 28 places in the group stage. Again by doing this you provide financial stability to Europe’s top clubs and top leagues. They’ll no longer need to think year to year, they’ll be able to think long term.
FIGC needs to realize they’re at a crossroads, they’re now not just competing against European countries, leagues from all continents are vying for audiences. Just as in business, the smartest will survive and thrive. Italy should lead the way with an overhaul that will give them an advantage in Europe, and future growth.