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SBD Global/April 29, 2013/International Football

Juventus President Agnelli Says Italian Football Dragged Down By Country's Woes

Juventus, like other Italian clubs, is hoping to increase attendance, decrease violence.
Serie A Juventus President Andrea Agnelli has "presided over the club’s return to its habitual place at the top of Italian football" since '10, according to Simon Kuper of the FINANCIAL TIMES. However, the club is not where it wants to be: "at the top in Europe." Juventus "has fallen victim to the problems of Italy itself." Agnelli said, "Is Italian football interesting to watch today? Half the stadiums are empty, there is violence. I mean, it’s not the best product.” Italian football -- "corrupt, beset by violent thugs, economic decline, parochialism and lack of government" -- offers "almost too perfect a metaphor for Italy itself." Like Ferrari or Gucci, or a brilliant corner café, "Juventus is aiming for something very difficult: to be a pocket of excellence in a decaying country." The Agnellis are often called “Italy’s royal family.” Andrea’s great-grandfather Giovanni Agnelli in 1899 co-founded a company called Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, or Fiat. In '23 Giovanni encouraged his son Edoardo to become president of Turin’s football club, Juventus. Agnelli: “The 90 years’ ownership makes us the longest lasting ownership in any sports franchise globally."

THE OLD LADY: Juventus is nicknamed La Vecchia Signora, “the Old Lady,” but Agnelli notes another description: “Juventus is known as ‘the girlfriend of Italy.’ It’s probably the woman everyone wants to be with.” Italian football is not "beautiful any more." As with many things in Italy, former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi "must take some blame." When he was prime minister, "Italy became a country where Berlusconi voters and Berlusconi haters watched Berlusconi’s team Milan thump teams" subsidized by Berlusconi’s government "on Berlusconi’s pay channels, in a league run by Berlusconi’s right-hand man Adriano Galliani, and then watched the highlights on Berlusconi’s free channel." The Premier League, Agnelli says, makes about €2B ($2.61B) a year from TV rights, "about half of that domestic and half foreign." Italian clubs make about €1B ($1.3B), of which almost 90% "is generated inside Italy." Agnelli even envies English advertising boards. Agnelli said, "You are reading messages in Chinese across all Premier League stadiums. ... In football, money determines success. Rather than a final destination for top players, we are now a transit league.” Agnelli said, "Take something as apparently simple as selling replica shirts." British and German fans "flock to buy their team’s new shirt." Agnelli: “In Italy we buy counterfeit shirts. Fake is a problem of this country” (FT, 4/26).
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