Roma: The Empire Strikes Back

Roma are one of the biggest clubs in Italy and one of the well-known clubs in Europe also. In spite of this, they’ve had very limited success – with Totti only winning one league title in his 25 years as a senior player. They have in this time, established themselves as a top club in Italy, being within touching distance of a league title most years. Exemplified by going closest to stopping this current Juventus team during their 6-in-a-row scudetto titles. This season, Roma ended with their highest ever points total of 87 (note: league changed from 18 to 20 teams for start of 2004/05 season). This eclipses their 85 points in the 2013/14 season. The trajectory of the capital club is only going in one direction and that’s upward.

Since Roma was taken over by its current American owners in 2011, they have added extra funding as well as having managed the club more efficiently. In the past, Roma were known to fluctuate dramatically in their league standings but have been much more consistent since James Pallotta has come to head the club. Going forward, this effective club management will be a catalyst in improving Roma’s chances of winning silverware, boosting their profile on the international stage as well as providing Italy with stars for the future.

The American owners are very ambitious with their ideas for Roma. This ambition is best seen in the plans to develop a new stadium for the club. Within Italy, only Juventus, Sassuolo and Udinese own their own stadium. Atalanta have also got permission to get their own stadium by buying it off the current owners – the council. Every other club has to pay the local council to rent it out every year – a massive issue across Italy. This creates huge expenses for the clubs while they generate minimal revenue from match days.

Over the past few years, Roma, Lazio, AC Milan, Palermo and Cagliari have all made proposals to build their own stadia, only to be shot down by planning authorities. It is certainly one aspect of Italian football that is falling behind its European counterparts. There were several complaints raised about the standard of the San Siro last year during the Champions League Final where it was viewed as being in need of massive repair. The fact Juventus’ old stadium Delle Alpi was demolished after only 16 years shows how outdated the stadia built for ‘Italia 90’ were. The introduction of athletic tracks around the pitch at the time have since come in for a lot of criticism as the supporters do not get a good enough view of the game. Secondly, the atmosphere during games is massively effected where teams may end up playing in front of half-filled grounds. The repair of the stadia of the time were 84% over budget and the clubs/councils have struggled to pay off this debt since. The fact clubs are incapable of gathering the full match day reward due to high rents, makes the possibility of progression for Italian clubs even more difficult. Last year, Arsenal generated €132 million out of their Emirates Stadium – more than any other club in Europe. AC Milan in the same period, generated roughly €25 million – you can really see the need for clubs developing their own stadium in order to compete in Europe.

“If we are going to consistently compete as a top club in the world we need a new stadium, a stadium that is privately owned by AS Roma.” (AS Roma Chairman, James Pallotta)

The new stadium for Roma will be a massive step into the future for the capital club. A new stadium where the club will have full control over, rather than sharing with their biggest rivals will be a massive gain. As classically beautiful as the Stadio Olimpico is, it isn’t very well suited to creating a good atmosphere for a football match. The running track around the pitch takes away from the experience for most supporters and results in poorly attended games. The building of the new 52,500 seated stadium will be a complete contrast to the current experience; “With a focus on both intimacy and ‘home pitch advantage’, the design integrates one of international football’s most tightly organised seating bowls”. Roma will give themselves an opportunity to propel themselves forward in order to compete with Juventus, who have taken full advantage of building their own stadium. It appears everything has been thought of in order to get the most out of the new stadium. Included, are plans to extend the current metro to Roma’s new home, where they will be a new training complex along with shops and

Roma will give themselves an opportunity to propel themselves forward in order to compete with Juventus, who have taken full advantage of building their own stadium. It appears everything has been thought of in order to get the most out of the new stadium. Included, are plans to extend the current metro to Roma’s new home, where they will be a new training complex along with shops and club museum. One of the biggest advantages for building a new stadium is the extra money generated via corporate/VIP packages by adding in private boxes which is a massively profitable area. For more information on Roma’s new proposed stadium see the clubs official site.

As part of the management group going forward, Roma have added Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, more commonly known as ‘Monchi’ to their team as sporting director. For those who are unaware of who Monchi is and what he has done in the past, check this out!. Here, I have written an article that goes into detail how he mastered the transfer market during his 17 years as Sevilla’s sporting director.

During these 17 years, he brought Sevilla from languishing in Segunda Division to a consistent top table team in La Liga, as well as winning 5 UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies along the way. His form of scouting has really been where he has found success where he has made massive profits for Sevilla year on year during his time at the club. Buying a young Dani Alves for €0.5 million and selling him on for a €30 million profit is the best example of this.

With a brand new 52,500 capacity stadium coming, Roma need to be sure they can fill it. This really shouldn’t be a problem as Roma supporters are crazy about the club. There is quite a significant following in the United States as well as all over Italy. Considering that Roma are a club form the capital, it should stand them in good stead in terms of acquiring additional supporters going forward.

“There are radio stations that speak only about Roma 24 hours a day. It’s one of the things that struck me most. Then the televisions, the newspapers etc” (Monchi interview with Onda Cero Radio station)

The fact that the club is based in one of the busiest capitals in Europe also makes it very appealing for football tourists to go to a game. Looking at most other countries, the capital clubs are generally very successful and attract a lot of supporters from outside their borders: France with PSG, England with Chelsea and Arsenal, Holland with Ajax, Belgium with Anderlecht, Spain with Real Madrid, Portugal with Benfica and Sporting. Germany is a rare exception, but Hertha Berlin are certainly building at the moment and have ambitious plans going forward. The same can be said for Roma where, according to Monchi “there is a very large growth margin.” Forbes recently released their list of the most valuable clubs in the world which saw Roma listed in 17th – growing by 17% on the previous year. They were also the only club within the top 20 to not have a shirt sponsor; justifying Monchi’s statement for a large growth margin.

One problem facing Roma that the management of both the team and club as a whole will have to overcome, is the small mindedness of Roma. Fabio Capello, when he was first team coach during the period 1999-2004 said the club was struggling with this and that they put themselves as a big fish in a small pond by competing with Lazio every year rather than pitching themselves against the league and European winners. In an interview in 2000, Capello claimed there were “few places in the world like it. Madrid perhaps is a bit similar in terms of media pressure and demands. But the difference is that in Madrid they have a world view, they look outwards and measure themselves against the whole footballing universe. But here, everything begins and ends in Rome … We need to break that psychological block and compete in the wider world.” Unfortunately, for Roma this same issue still exists. 17 years later and there has been little evidence of this “psychological block” moving. In the last few seasons, particularly since the American owners have come in, has seen an effort in breaking down this block. Such change can be slow however, especially in the case here as it is something that has lingered over the club for so long. Liverpool would also represent a similar psychological block but effects them in different ways. For Roma to be successful going forward, they need to completely eradicate this mental fragility. Bringing Monchi into the club will certainly be a significant step in the right direction considering he is regarded as the best at what he does. This will take time, but Roma certainly is taking steps in the right direction.

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