The hope is that the next Olympic Games, at the end of 2016, can accelerate reforms to the structure of Italian football and foster the natural change in personnel, competencies and the way the game is run. This is a process the league bodies, footballers and coaches have to grasp in order to avoid spending a further five years, between now and 2020, listing what should be done but that no one does.
Football has to go back to the heart of this world and, in the short term, in order to improve the product we offer supporters, it would be wise to tackle the following issues:
1. For too long the idea of creating B teams has been rejected, while other countries have guaranteed their young players steady development. Serie A needs to have the strength to bridge the generational gap between the Primavera championship (Under-19) and potentially joining the first team, which typically occurs between 22 and 23 years old.
2. Reforming the league system is imperative and must be accompanied by significant reflection on the issue of mutuality. Relegated teams must be protected so as to avoid jeopardising, as is currently the case, the business’s continuity. It is patently clear that cases such as Parma, who went bankrupt during the league season, or the continued problems many clubs are encountering in obtaining UEFA licences, undermine the credibility of the system as a whole, making it less attractive for potential new investors, who we need, provided they present clear, long-term development plans.
3. The situation regarding stadia, save rare and noteworthy exceptions, is unchanged. Not only has the planning of new infrastructure stalled, existing facilities have even been granted waivers from current legislation. The introduction of Goal Line Technology – a positive move – entailed costs that all the clubs could bear without any problems. Sadly, the same cannot be said of investment in safety and the latest technology in video surveillance which, with much lower costs, would greatly assist the work of the authorities in identifying the individuals behind the offences and would clearly reduce so-called ‘objective responsibility’, which after the recent events of April’s derby at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, I would jokingly dub ‘inherent responsibility’. Individual responsibility has now become of secondary importance and Italian football appears to have succumbed to this aberration.
In conclusion, I believe it is only right we point out that the ability to engage in dialogue and enact reform in governance does not result from the impromptu wishes of a single club. This is a consolidated trend at the European level, thanks to the institutions’ ability to plan, particularly the European Club Association (ECA), but also UEFA. The clubs joining UEFA’s Executive Committee was a historically significant event, and also proves that well-structured institutions can evolve, considering those who invest human and financial resources in football and quite legitimately want to have their voice heard. It is an honour for me to represent the 220 clubs from 53 different football associations in this dialogue, along with president Rummenigge. Over the last 12 months, the ECA has reached common ground with European football’s governing body which led to the early signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding, valid until 2022. This agreement includes greater benefits for clubs, beginning with Euro 2020, and new mutuality between the Champions and Europa League.
Similar positive dialogue has begun with FIFA, but events which have recently come to light in the global media have slowed the process for the time being.
A further demonstration of the fact that no institution can continue for too long to ignore calls for greater transparency and reform without the real risk of being overwhelmed.