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26 Oct 2012

Agnelli speech at Shareholders' Meeting

Andrea Agnelli opens the annual Shareholders' Meeting at Turin's Lingotto centre

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli kept with tradition by delivering the opening address at the club's annual Shareholders' Meeting, held at Turin's Lingotto centre.

Here are his words:

"Juventus are champions of Italy.

"Your club is champion of Italy.

"For far too long, Juventus presidents, including myself, have had to come into this meeting to comment, explain and analyse the club's financial results without the heart-warming joy that comes from a triumph such as the one we achieved a few months ago.

"For far too long, these Bianconeri colours have sought to get back on the path that history has assigned us. If football were the same phenomenon it was 30, 20, perhaps even just 10 years ago, today we could all sit here and enjoy the friendly atmosphere for a few hours, smiling and patting ourselves on the back.

"But football is not what it used to be. Football is a rapidly, and in some cases dramatically, evolving phenomenon.

"Football has become a huge industry which yes, first and foremost, still affects the mood of millions of people, but it has undergone changes which have turned it into a phenomenon – at the heart of which is a sport – that generates billions of euros around the world. It would be wrong to assume that an industry of this size need not face up to the crisis that has hit the world's economy and the Italian economy in particular.

"In the season in which we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of my family's involvement with this club, I feel it is appropriate to reflect on the fact that Juventus, which today is your Juventus, has always promoted major changes in football, both in Italy and internationally. The current management has no intention of moving away from that mission.

"When I was nominated as president by this group of shareholders, I had clear in mind a couple of phases of this change, and I feel it is right to share them with your today.

"The first was to change the club and the team.

"It's a path that is constantly changing direction but in 30 months together we've succeeded in making great headway. As I mentioned in the letter I wrote to you a few weeks ago, on behalf of the board of directors, it's right to thank you shareholders today because you have ensured the necessary resources for us to start again, to create a necessary break after approving the worst balance sheet in the club's history. You did that en masse and you did it comprehensively, following the example of the main shareholder Exor, who have offered their support on a daily basis.

"The figures you see in front of you today demonstrate that the picture has changed drastically, although we realise there is still a long way to go and our path is beset with obstacles.

"A few days ago I came across one of Winston Churchill's sayings: 'The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.' The Scudetto our lads wear on their chests must not make us forget our mandate: success on the pitch while maintaining balanced books to ensure that the club, and therefore the shareholders and the millions of fans, may count on medium to long-term prospects that are befitting of Juventus.

"The figures in the budget sheet for your approval today are worth reflecting on: losses have been halved and we aim to push on with the recovery process.

"The club has undergone radical change in these two years. What Marotta and others before him defined as the 'invisible team' has been almost completely revamped, as has the team that takes to the pitch every game.

"After 17 years of waiting and development, Juventus Stadium is now a reality to behold for the whole of Italian football. It has started to bear fruit too, both on the pitch and by contributing to the club's finances. We haven't rested on our laurels though. From the J-Museum to the J-College for our youth academy boys, we're working on a daily basis on a number of fronts to build Juventus' future.

"A few days ago we presented a redevelopment project for the Continassa area, which besides the stadium will host the club's headquarters and the training ground.

"I am counting on the passion, dedication, experience and hunger of this management team to soon bring you better financial results than what you see today. However, my impression is that we're on the right path.

"Einstein said, 'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.' He didn't know much about football but it's a rule that no one in football or in Italy can ignore. The problem is working out where the point of balance is...

"And here we come to the second point: we need to change Italian football and bring it up to European standard.

"Today, Italian football finds itself at a crossroads. After the great successes of the last thirty years, today we’re seeing a rapid decline which shows no sign of abating. Its development model is impeded by several factors which perfectly reflect the crisis the country is currently experiencing.

"I have no doubt over which will be the most popular Italian football club in twenty years. Juventus will still have millions of fans and there will still be black and white scarves in football stadiums.

"But which stadiums?

"We all need to ask ourselves what Italian football will have become in a few years' time. Many countries have experienced a footballing decline but none have had such a rapid descent. We are faced with a structural collapse which cannot simply be put down to the economic crisis.

"Club presidents, the media and followers of football in general ask if we support X or Y candidate to run the Lega Serie A or the FIGC [Italian FA]. However, no one is asking how these important positions should be carried out.

"Names have gradually come to replace the roles; indeed, today the names are sometimes even mistaken for the roles.

"Which candidate do Juventus support? We support a structural reform of professional football, which can no longer be treated the same as the game at grass roots level. Whoever claims the contrary will end up marginalising Italy on a European and world level. This doesn’t mean we should put a stop to financial support packages or renounce the institutions: all we ask is that the machine – because that’s what it is – can keep pace with the rest.

"Serie A and Serie B represent the only real sporting and economic heritage of the movement: without them football would continue to be the most popular and the most played sport but it would be consigned to a local level. In 1997 Italy was second in the UEFA rankings for total numbers of supporters at stadiums and revenue. Today we are fourth: England, Spain and Germany are pulling away from us and soon France and Portugal will follow them.

"A reform of the leagues, the number of professional teams, and youth academies. Reform of the status of professional sport, which is still based on a law enacted in 1981. Back when we had only won the World Cup twice and Juventus only had one star on their shirt. Reform of the Melandri law, without going back to individual negotiating, but with a stricter application of the principles laid out. Brand protection. Stadium laws. A full reform of the sporting justice system which cannot treat issues affecting clubs worth millions of euros like minor disputes in provincial football.

"These are the areas we want to discuss, not the list of candidates and complicated governing procedures which belong to a culture that has proven to be conservative and in decline.

"The football world is evolving but it will not wait for Italy: think that at your peril. Our coaches and our best talents have new stages on which they can test themselves: from Brazil to China, to Russia and the Middle East. We all have to adapt.

"Legendary poet and song-writer Bob Dylan once wrote, 'You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone, 'cause the times they are a-changin'...' Times were changing back then and they still are now.

"Juventus do not intend to sink like a stone but it will have to float with Italian football, which we want to have dialogue and find solutions with. Urgently."