Stadio Delle Alpi to Allianz Stadium: How Juventus unshackled themselves

Words by Harvey Sayer Illustration by Philippe Fenner
September 16, 2018
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Internazionale’s capitulation on the final day of the 2002 season gifted Juventus another Italian League title, the following summer, the board announced that the Old Lady would solve their longstanding issue with the Turin City Council by controversially purchasing the Stadio Delle Alpi for €25 million. The sale was a landmark in Italian football stadium ownership, as no club had previously been able to settle on an agreement with the Council and the deal has implications that still cause controversy today.

Marcelo Lippi’s prosperous second spell in charge prompted an offer from the Italian national side, and Fabio Capello was appointed his replacement. Though in 2006 the two managers would suffer vastly different fates, Capello secured both Scudetto’s in his initial two seasons despite averaging an attendance of only 25,000.

That was until the Calciopoli scandal shocked Italian football to its very foundations, leaving Juventus stripped of their two most recent titles coupled with relegation to Serie B.

Conversely, during the summer Lippi would be immortalised after inspiring the Azzurri to their fourth World Cup.

Meanwhile, the disgraced champions relocated back to the newly renovated Stadio Comunale, renamed the Stadio Olimpico for the 2006 Winter Olympics, finally calling time on the Stadio Delle Alpi after 16 years and 17 trophies.

Later it was revealed that the Stadio Olimpico would only be a temporary home and the Delle Alpi was set to be demolished, in its place, Juventus would build their own home and finally have a stadium fit for purpose.

That demolition would begin in 2009; the running track was removed to supporters delight, and the Bianconeri would embark on the construction of the Juventus stadium (commercially known as the Allianz Stadium). A pioneering feat as previously no Italian top flight club had attempted to build their stadium.

Rectifying the issues that loitered throughout the Stadio Delle Alpi’s tenure was a critical aspect of reintegrating the Allianz Stadium with its supporters;through the addition of non-footballing facilities, such as a shopping centre on site to make a day spent at the stadium an ‘experience’ beyond just football, for instance.

Juventus should also be praised for their conscious effort to make the ground as environmentally friendly as possible, firstly by using sections of recycled concrete from the Stadio Delle Alpi but also through the use of solar panels for under pitch heating and the recollection of rainwater, reducing the amount needed to water the surface by 50%.

During the seven seasons that have passed since the Juventus Stadium became home, the Turin club has reigned supreme in a manner which Italian football has never previously seen, victorious in seven consecutive Scudettos. Couple that with four successive Coppa Italia’s and it’s been an indisputable era of dominance.

Antonio Conte has been widely accredited for the Old Lady’s resurgence, overseeing the transition to their new home. His formational shift from the 4-3-3 previously deployed by former manager Luigi Delneri to a 3-5-2 system provided the team with incredible balance, and his cohesive unit of players maintained exceptional standards of consistency, losing just three of their first one hundred home games. Andrea Pirlo famously reignited his career as a regista after leaving AC Milan for free, in a manner few if any other players have matched this century.

Juventus capturing the World Cup winner’s signature at no cost led fellow countrymen and Bianconeri legend Gianluigi Buffon to claim “God exists”.

After a bitter exit from the Rossoneri, it’s uncertain as to whether revenge motivated Pirlo or the prospect of a new challenge, but likely a combination of the two; however during his debut against Parma, Pirlo was at his majestic, unplayable best, proving what a costly mistake AC Milan had made.

He did so by notching two assists; the first of which involved a typically penetrative saunter forwards, in which Parma’s midfield made the critical error falling for Pirlo’s feint. In doing so, they allowed the Italian enough space to delicately chip over the oppositions defensive line, directly into Stephan Lichsteiner’s path to tap in.

The second perfectly exhibited Pirlo’s phenomenal vision and ability to read the game, before he even received the ball he was acutely aware of his surroundings. Claudio Marchisio turns, bursting away from his marker and with impeccable timing Pirlo once again lofts the ball over the five opponents in his path with pinpoint accuracy. Antonio Mirante in the Parma goal hesitates long enough that by the time he’d decided whether he should come to collect the ball, Marchisio had replicated his teammate’s feat by sumptuously chipping in over the keeper’s head. In this instance, Pirlo’s astonishing speed of thought meant that before the goalkeeper had a chance to make his decision, he was forced to turn and gather the ball from out of his net.

Though the stadium can’t be directly attributed to Juventus recent dominance on the pitch, it has benefited the club financially, which translated to being able to attract and retain talented players for longer, via a steadily increasing wage bill. As well as this, the lack of stadium rent allows the club to increase expenditure on transfers, resulting in arrivals such as Cristiano Ronaldo for a price few other Italian clubs could dream of matching.

It would be logical to assume that building a stadium would financially shackle Juventus at least temporarily, but this hasn’t been the case. Due to now having the stadium as a significant asset, the club is in a much better position to manage this debt. As well as this, incorporating executive suites into the design of the ground has increased match day revenue to £132 million per year, which is more than both the Milan clubs combined.

Juventus have amassed a financial superiority over the remainder of Serie A in part due to being relieved of the issues many other Italian clubs face, because of the stadiums they had built for the 1990 World Cup. Italia 90’ left an awkward legacy whereby clubs are now reluctant to invest in a stadium which they do not own and are unable to reap the benefits from, so therefore – when clubs do propose to build a new stadium – their progress is typically blocked or slowed by councils not wishing to lose a consistent revenue stream.

Bickering in the boardroom has most affected the fans though – they’ve endured years of outdated, poorly designed and half-empty stadiums ,meaning that fans of Serie A now watch from the sofa, not the stands. The average attendance in the Italian top flight has fallen to just 56%, by far the least of Europe’s top five leagues. Because of this, broadcasting revenue is now significantly more heavily relied upon as a source of income and the money from lucrative television deals makes on average 50% to 60% of most clubs total revenue.

Sadly, clubs have increased the price of tickets in an attempt to salvage match day revenue, but all this has done is leave fans in a position where they can’t afford to support their side.

The crisis has now reached a point where councils must decide to either loosen their grip over where Italian clubs play football or modernise stadiums themselves. Due to the increased profits Juventus have made by moving into their stadium it would appear unfair not to allow all others to follow suit, or to purchase their existing ground similarly. However until this debate is resolved the Bianconeri will continue to maintain an unfair advantage over the majority of the field by learning from the Stadio Delle Alpi’s cruxes and constructing a purpose-built home, where fans rightly come first and foremost.

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