tribalfootball.com's Lucio Sticca speaks with the Project Manager of the Italy candidacy for UEFA Euro 2016, Michele Uva, about their bid, football in Italy and it's future. The former Lazio and Parma GM also talks about where the local club game stands compared to the rest of Europe.
Click here for an Italian version of our exclusive interview.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has put in a bid for the 2016 European Championships after having missed out on the 2012 Championships. What were the reasons for the unsuccessful 2012 bid?
I cannot say too much as I was not involved in the 2012 bid process or bid team. But what I have picked up since I joined the 2016 bid team is that the Italian 2012 bid was considered to be the best from a technical point of view but in the end UEFA decided to reward the eastern European joint bid from Poland and Ukraine, a decision that had political implications rather than purely sporting.
What has changed then in recent times to encourage Italian Football to try for the 2016 Championships?
2016 is a great opportunity for Italian Football to showcase itself. We also have the opportunity to leave a legacy for the future by concentrating on redevelopment of stadiums, improve security at games and improve the technical level of the Italian game. Our bid dossier has gone into great detail about all our Clubs and supporters, and the opportunity to improve the cultural and economic impact for the future of Italian Football.
Is the 2016 bid based solely on Italy holding the Championships on its own or jointly with another European nation?
Our bid for 2016 is purely stand alone; Italy has a great tradition in world football as well as a nation that is used to hosting many world events and not forgetting that we are one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations; so we are well equipped to handle such a prestigious and demanding event like the 2016 European Championships.
Italian football stadiums are truly antiquated compared to English and German stadia, do you agree?
A number of our principal stadiums were refurbished for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and subsequent to that, the Meazza at San Siro Milano and Rome’s Olimpico have had further works to host the Champions League finals in 1996, 2001 and 2009. Also we have Juventus that has already commenced construction if its new stadium in Torino. Other Clubs are looking to do the same as Juventus. The Italian Parliament is currently investigating the stadium needs. 2016 provides us with the opportunity to fast track the redevelopment of new stadiums so our bid has taken this into account.
How many stadiums will be required for the Championships?
Presently we have nominated 12 cities to host the championships;
Bari, Cagliari, Cesena, Firenze, Milano, Napoli, Palermo, Parma, Roma, Torino, Udine, Verona; if our bid is successful we will decide on the 9 cities that will be granted the official games as required by UEFA and announce them by the deadline of May 2011.
Will all the stadiums require reconstruction?
For an important event like 2016 it is vital that we have stadiums of the future Rome and Milano already have stadiums that are at a good level. We have plans for 3 completely new stadiums at Torino, Cagliari and Palermo; while the others have major works planned such as roofing, removal of athletics tracks, addition of VIP and Corporate boxes, handicap access, modern amenities for the general public, improved viewing and seating configurations, LED perimeter signage, water collection and reticulation, modern and high tech media facilities and strong recycling and environmental systems.
How much do you think the reconstruction work will cost?
We have established budgets for all of the works and this totals 745 million euro. The local governments have also undertaken important undertakings with regards to civic improvements.
Does the FIGC have the support of the Italian government?
Our application has the full support of the Government, as well as of all Italian political forces. The Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pledged directly by signing letters of guarantees and commitments to UEFA. The Under-Secretary to the Presidency of the Council with special responsibility for Sport, Rocco Crimi, represented the government in Nyon on 15 February to receive the bidding dossier from UEFA. The nomination also was shared with CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee. But there's more: our application is heavily endorsed by all of Italy: the main Italian companies have supported us in the preparation of the choices made in the dossier, the vast majority of football supporters (97% according to the survey of German Sport + Markt AG NDR) has agreed with our candidacy.
Juventus is already building a new stadium. Do you think it is a positive move to have a privately owned stadium rather than a government owned facility, like those found in all of the other Italian cities?
Juventus is the first club in Italy which, thanks to the City of Torino, has been able to own it’s own stadium. But soon enough we will have more clubs following suit as most sports business analysts indicate that this is the way of the future if clubs are to survive. The legislation to support this move has already been passed by Senate and is currently with the other house of parliament and likely to be passed by the start of May.
You have previously been the General Manager of both Parma and Lazio. Do you believe football has improved this season? Financially though there seems to be a lot of problems. Can we be confident that Italian football can remain at a high level given the financial difficulties?
Italian football has always been considered at the pinnacle of world football. 4 World Cup wins, 1 Euro title, 5 European Under 21 titles and one Olympic Games victory plus the outstanding story of our clubs, which in all European competitions have won more titles than any other country. Financially, Italian clubs have been able to endure difficult moments due to a strong foundation of solidarity, something which other leagues haven’t been able to avoid. We have certainly lost our competitive edge at European level, and this is the theme of my book which will be launched on May 6 called “La Ripartenza” (the new beginning).
There is definitely potential to improve, what is important is to work on the stadiums and marketing to reinforce our clubs. We are certain that in Italy we can organize an unforgettable European competition: fan zones, for example, will be hosted in some of the most beautiful piazzas in the world, which will be the envy of all. Think of the historic locations in Rome, but also the other cities who all have loads of history and beauty, giving fans of all nations the opportunity to unite and make memories of a lifetime regardless of whether they are inside or outside the stadiums. In terms of transport, the Italian airline industry is one of the most advanced in Europe with great coverage. Each candidate city will have two major transport solutions, as well as sea travel. Add to the improvements to the fast-train network which will cut travel time between the nine host cities. And then consider the wonderful Italian hospitality, to our network of hotels which will accommodate guests at all levels, and also to the gastronomy of our wonderful country which I am certain all fans will enjoy.
Is winning the 2010 World Cup important for the bid to be successful?
As a supporter of course I’m hoping for a win, but the actual decision from UEFA on the winning bid will be made on May 28.
Those who follow football are aware that there is a problem with the poor behavior of the crowds in Italian stadiums. Do you think that this behavior can be changed? With new stadiums, like those built in England 15 years ago, the behavior of the fans improved dramatically. There is a saying that if you treat people like animals, they behave like animals. So if Italian stadiums are modernized do you think this will improve the fans’ behavior?
In Italy in recent years there has been a move towards reducing violent clashes at the grounds and legislation from the Internal Ministry have had positive results. Regarding the bid, I think the problems in France and Turkey are more recent. Obviously we are only half way there: Euro 2016 is a goal for us to change the culture of Italian football, with educational programs and new, modern stadiums. We have studied a plan for safety and security, to offer spectators the opportunity to participate in a sporting event which has a festive and calm atmosphere.