Juventus CEO: Small stadium, big plans

ROME - It may not rank among the world's largest football arenas but Juventus's new stadium could herald a renaissance for the Old Lady of Italian football, the club's chief executive said.

The Juventus Arena, which hosted its first Serie A match on Sunday when Parma visited, has a capacity of just 41,000, a figure which pales in comparison to the grounds of rivals Milan/Inter (80,000), Barcelona (99,000), Manchester United (76,000) and Bayern Munich (70,000).

But Aldo Mazzia, the man recently entrusted with boosting the once mighty club's fortunes following the after-effects of a 2006 match-fixing scandal, reckons size is not everything as Juve become the only Italian club to own their own ground.

"We believe that it's better to have a stadium that's a bit smaller but almost always full and closer to the team than to have a much bigger one that only gets sold out for a few games," he told Reuters in an interview.

Juventus, who have traditionally gained country-wide support from migrants working in Turin for their sister company Fiat, hated their old Stadio Delle Alpi home (69,000 capacity) because of a lack of atmosphere caused by a running track and empty seats.

Since 2006 Italy's best supported and most successful domestic club have shared the Stadio Olimpico with Torino and their new ground, which has yet to be given an official name despite a long search for a sponsor, has been built on the site of the Delle Alpi.

"The Stadio Olimpico has a 25,000 capacity and a very limited number of premium seats," said Mazzia, who replaced Jean-Claude Blanc as CEO in May after succeeding Michele Bergero as chief financial officer a month earlier.

"Stadium revenues for last season were 11.5 million euros of which 9.8 million euros came through ticketing and 1.7 million euros for other services, an amount that was around 7.5 percent of total revenue.

"The new stadium offers a completely different scenario. Among the 41,000 there are around 4,000 premium seats. There will be great views because there is no track and fans are close to the pitch (7.5 metres) creating a special atmosphere.

"Stadium facilities will be open seven days a week and there will also be plenty on offer for fans, families and companies looking for commercial activity. The idea is to increase income and diversify revenue streams."

Along with shops, restaurants, bars, parking, conference and banqueting facilities, a Juventus museum will open in early 2012.

"We predict stadium revenues to increase to 15 percent of commercial income, which is double the current amount, with revenue rising to 32 million euros of which 20 million will come from ticketing and six million from naming rights," said Mazzia, adding there was scope to increase the number of premium seats in future seasons.

The Turin side have won a record 27 scudettos as well as two European Cups but have struggled since the Calciopoli scandal in 2006 when they were demoted to Serie B and stripped of the 2004/05 and 2005/06 titles for influencing the selection of referees.

Last year they dropped below AC Milan (7th) and Inter Milan (9th) to 10th in Deloitte and Touche's Football Money League, suffering even more than other Italian clubs from poor attendances.

MODERN ARENA

Matchday revenue accounted for just eight percent of total income, well below the 22 percent average Deloitte calculates for Europe's big five leagues (England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy).

But Mazzia believes the club's modern arena will now help push Juventus ahead of the Serie A pack in generating money and make them better able to compete in Europe.

"Today Juventus is the only Italian club to own its stadium," said the 55-year old.

"While it's probable that others will follow our lead, I haven't see any new plans, so from that point of view Juventus has a competitive advantage of at least four or five years.

"International football has in recent years attracted huge investment from new operators who have enabled certain teams to compete in a short space of time.

"It's no surprise that Italian football has been affected, seeing stars leave and failing to attract big names to Serie A. Investing in youth is the only way to go forward."

In their bid to get back to the big time, Juve may also be aided by UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules that restrict a club's spending according to its revenue and which come into effect in the 2013/14 season.

"If Financial Fair Play is correctly applied it will undoubtedly contribute to a more healthy system of international football," said Mazzia.

"However it could help increase the chasm between clubs with the highest revenues and all the rest."

Friday's decision by the Italian Olympic Committee's National Court of Arbitration for Sport (TNAS) that it was competent to judge on Juve's bid to revoke Inter's 2006 scudetto - handed to the Milan club by default after the Calciopoli scandal - has been welcomed.

Juve say Inter were also involved in the scandal, something their rivals have always denied.

"Our president [Andrea Agnelli] is personally following the latest developments to make sure there is fair treatment regarding the 2006 scudetto," said Mazzia.

Mazzia sounds confident about the stadium, finances and the bid to have Inter's 2006 title stripped but matters on the pitch look less secure.

If the enigmatic Mirko Vucinic and injury-prone Fabio Quagliarella fail to fire in attack, new coach Antonio Conte may again have to rely on the legs of 36-year-old Juve stalwart Alessandro Del Piero.