By Stephen Coutts
When AS Roma recently released plans to build a new stadium on the outskirts of the city, quite a few fans were excited, quite a few fans were moist with anticipation, and quite a few fans were not holding their breaths (Enzo fell into all three brackets). The aesthetically pleasing structure designed by Australian architects Woods Bagot, pardon the pun, looks the part on paper but will the Stadio della Roma really become a reality?
Their media release quotes a build cost ‘of $400m’, ‘inspired by the Coliseum’, ‘seating for 52,520 fans’ with Sport Design Leader Dan Meis admitting that ‘the Stadio della Roma truly is a project of a lifetime…to build a new home for AS Roma and the most passionate fans in football is heart stopping’. All positive spin and covering all the bases, it’s what the fans and shareholders want to hear. But can the Roma hierarchy justify such a venture, and can Roman city councillors come to an agreement on land and infrastructure around Tor di Valle. And just what will happen to poor shared tenancy holders and bitter rivals SS Lazio who have grand ideas of creating a new footballing theatre, yet nothing in concrete (again, pardon the pun).
For sure, the Stadio Olimpico is creaking and in need of a lick of paint here and there, but many clubs are too quick to tear down their old stadiums and replace them with sterile shells that lack atmosphere and history, although I was mightily impressed with the Amsterdam Arena when I visited, and if successful the della Roma may replicate its qualities.
There are quite a few Italian teams courting the idea of relocating and rebuilding, again, at this stage they are no more than business plans bound with execu-speak, but Udinese appear to be pondering over regenerating their ground after securing a 99-year leasehold on the Stadio Friuli. Then there are Juve, the Turin side are part of a duo that were keen to make the bold leap to own their stadia, La Vecchia Signora moved into the aptly named Juventus Stadium in time for the 2011-12 season with an opener against Notts County. And in December 2013 Sassuolo’s owner Giorgio Squinzi bought the Stadio Città del Tricolore/Mapei Stadium, which the is also used by football sides Carpi and Reggiana, with a few other sports thrown into the multi-purpose mixture.
Two very different top flight teams from a country with a population of over 60m and millions of Calcio fans with just two club-owned stadias.
But with the positivity of silverware and the numbers of fans going through the gates on the up at the Juve Stadium, the negativity has seen parts of the ground closed due to fan trouble. Some may argue this would never have happened at the Stadio delle Alpi or Stadio Comunale but those grounds are now dust, bones and ideology from another time. The Juve Stadium is state-of-the-art and no stone has been left unturned (yet another pun), and the powers that be are clamping down on the old ways that were once tolerated.
If Roma get the nod to build their all-singing, all-dancing stadium of the future, it may take a few years for the foibles of new-ishness to wear off, and maybe not as quickly as some of the more hardcore fans would like. The days of celebrating a goal or victory with the supporters in the Curva Sud will have to be replaced with something equally as impressive, and will the ultras be subdued and co-erced into sitting down and clapping politely.
Cheerily enough, Roma’s last three seasons’ average home attendance has steadily been on the rise whereas flatmates Lazio’s have been relatively steady. How will this equate to a full house in the della Roma though?
2010-11 33,952 29,122
2011-12 36,219 32,410
2012-13 40,179 31,992
All interesting thoughts, but Roma’s first challenge is jumping through the hoops of local authority, and if they follow Juve’s lead they may well reap the rewards.
A bill passed in November 2013 by The Committee for Culture and Sports of the Italian Chamber of Deputies may also aid Roma’s cause. The law fast-tracks the building of new stadiums, the renovation of existing ones and allows the city council and the applicant club to agree on the location of new stadiums before the start of the construction works. Italian Deputy Secretary for Sport Rocco Crimi said: “I am very pleased that the law relating to stadium has been approved by the Committee. ”It is a very important step, obtained with the co-operation of all political forces.”
Any selected areas will be assessed by a feasibility study, notably examining the social, environmental and infrastructure aspects of the project. The law also simplifies the administrative procedures so that works could start within a one-year timescale. Italian Lega Serie A President Maurizio Beretta said: “It is a very important step towards the final approval of a fundamental law for our football.”
And as for Lazio? they’ll survive and keep the Curva Nord warm until club owner and President Claudio Lotito sees relocating as a viable financial option for them.
[Stephen Coutts is a footballer and sportswriter based in Glasgow, Scotland. His blog, The Dirty Tackle, is a wonderful supporter of Oceania football and well worth checking out! He’s a Laziale but we try not to hold that against him…]
Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.