Frosinone and their “jewel” light the path in Italy

Words by Adam Digby Illustration by Philippe Fenner
September 26, 2018
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Hopefully their bigger neighbours were watching. Frosinone’s recent meeting with Juventus showcased their new Stadio Benito Stirpe home and a visit from the reigning Serie A champions – and of course Cristiano Ronaldo – meant that the eyes of the world were upon the Canarini. Hailing from a small town located 75 kilometres (47 miles) south-east of the nation’s capital, this tiny club is setting an example many of their larger rivals should be aspiring to follow.

While their defence may have eventually been breached by the Portuguese megastar when they faced the Bianconeri, the location of the game should not be overlooked. The stadium was full and extremely loud throughout the 90 minutes, yet the fact it exists at all is the result of much hard work, not only from those who toiled on the building site to complete it, but also in actually facilitating the project to be completed in the first place.

Work began there back in the 1970s, but the stadium remained unfinished for three decades until the club managed to secure ownership from the local council in 2015, just as they prepared to make their top flight debut. Before that they had yo-yoed between Italy’s second and third divisions, but achieved back-to-back promotions to earn their first ever Serie A campaign, shocking the world by managing a 1-1 draw at Juventus Stadium.

Results didn’t go their way on the field and they returned to Serie B immediately, but the increased revenue allowed them to finally complete their stadium, opening it in September 2017 with supporters paying tribute to the owner for finally giving them a home. Investing approximately €15 million in the project, Frosinone became only the fifth Italian team to own the ground in which they play, Juventus, Udinese, Sassuolo and Atalanta the only others who are not renting from their local councils.

They certainly will have a ground worthy of such prestigious visitors and club President Maurizio Stirpe is happy to be creating a legacy that will certainly outlive his tenure at the helm of Frosinone. “The stadium was designed to leave something to the local area,” he says. “It was made for the supporters, who are then the real owners of this ground. We are merely the temporary administrators of it, the fans remain forever.”

With a capacity of just over 16,000 it might not be comparable to the giant stadia in Rome, Naples or Milan, but it is theirs and, crucially, it has been close to full capacity more often than not. The council has supported the club by restructuring the roads around the stadium to improve access, with a completely new route built in order to facilitate an easy journey for away fans, leaving many of the game’s key figures suitably impressed.

“This ground is a jewel, it should be taken and copied all over Italy, except for in the big cities,” insisted Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malagò, and the Frosinone owner knows he has been something of a trail blazer. “It’s not easy to find a model to inspire us, and I think every club should find their own path,” Stirpe insists, but he also believes his club are heading in the right direction.

“It was very important for us to complete our stadium, because today it allow us to develop our revenue diversification strategy,” Stirpe told Tifo Football in an exclusive interview. “We want to get closer to our goal of becoming self sufficient and think the the level of the revenue could increase by 55% in the next five years.”

Unlike their previous stint, Frosinone have made a point to bring in some players with proven quality at this level. Goalkeeper Marco Sportiello spent last season with Fiorentina, vastly experienced defender Cristian Molinaro arrived from Torino, while Iceland international Emil Hallfreðsson provides steel in a previously troubled midfield.

But they have taken some gambles too, signing former Arsenal winger Joel Campbell and 19-year-old Inter forward Andrea Pinamonti late in the summer in the hope they can grab some crucial goals and facilitate an unlikely survival mission.

“We hope that this time our stay can become more stable and in any case we will use our best efforts to stay as long as possible,” Stirpe – previously a self-confessed fan of AS Roma – added. Three years ago he longed to visit the Giallorossi at the imposing Stadio Olimpico, but now it is the Serie A giants who should be casting envious glances at the home Maurizio Stirpe and Frosinone have built.

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