The summer might be filled with speculation about which players will be moving clubs, and where different managers will end up, but it is also the time that clubs use to upgrade or change their stadiums.
In late June, Serie A demanded that clubs submit their plans as to which stadium they will be using for ‘home’ games during the next season, and there’s a few changes to those.
From Udine to Cagliari, and points in between, the stages upon which the theatre of Serie A plays out are altering while the teams are not using them over the summer.
Here is a rundown of what is happening off the field before next season.
First of all, top-flight newboys Sassuolo are changing grounds. Having been hosted at Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braglia for the last few years and celebrating their promotion there, the Neroverde will play their first ever Serie A campaign in Reggio Emilia at the 20,000 seat Stadio Citta del Tricolore. It will be the first time Serie A have visited what used to be the Stadio Giglio since 1997 when La Regia were relegated from the top-flight.
The mutually beneficial agreement will see the ground add new electronic advertising hoardings and benches, as well as ensuring a continuation of the good relationship between the two clubs, Sassuolo and Reggiana.
Sassuolo had been playing in Modena since 2008 as the Stadio Enzo Ricci in their home town is not up to either Serie A, or even Serie B, standard. The Neroverde will use the 4,000 seat stadium as a training base next season.
The two already established teams who are changing stadium are doing so for completely different reasons; indeed, their stories couldn’t be much more diverse.
Cagliari have been dragged from pillar to post in their plans for next season, seemingly using a different stadium week by week. After finishing the year in Trieste at the Stadio Nereo Rocco, the Isolani initially planned to begin the new season there while improvements were being made to the Is Arenas in Quartu Sant’Elena, a city adjoining Cagliari.
However, the mayor of Quartu Sant’Elena, Mauro Contino, was unwilling to stream public funds into the project, partially as a result of a stadium design. The design would have seen the south side of the stadium adding traffic to already congested streets.
Having submitted a number of amended designs, the final plan was deemed unsuitable, leaving the Sardi to look elsewhere for a stadium.
As a result, the Rossoblu quickly released a statement confirming their intentions of redeveloping their old Stadio Sant’Elia. That stadium has been out of use since February 2012, when it was judged unsafe for the public, as well as being the setting for claims that saw Cagliari’s president Massimo Cellino jailed.
The problems of ownership do not occur with the Stadio Sant’Elia, which belongs to the city of Cagliari, having bought the land with the specific purpose of constructing a sporting venue in 1961 for the princely sum of one penny.
The most recent meetings in Cagliari indicate that the work on the stadium is intended to be completed in time for the Isolani to move back during the international break in September, with Luigi Riva hoping the stadium will return to its 1990 World Cup state.
What will actually happen remains to be seen, however, as the club and the authorities are yet to decide whether the old Stadio Sant’Elia will be destroyed and a completely new one built.
Or as one would expect, if Cagliari were to move back in September, the old ground is to be renovated. Either way, considerable work must be undertaken, but at least the two parties are looking to move forward together.
Logic suggests that if the Stadio Sant’Elia was previously thought to be such a bad option in terms of renovation, the work that would bring it up to Serie A standard will take longer than a few months.
It is evident from press releases that the club are looking to appeal to their fans who understandably are not particularly keen on travelling 800 kilometres to Trieste whenever Cagliari play a ‘home’ game.
Wherever the Rossoblu end up, they will start the season ground-sharing with not just Triestina but also Udinese.
More importantly, it will be far more fitting of a team who have begun to play regularly playing in Europe.
In truth, Udinese have been able to upgrade their stadium fairly regularly.
The Stadio Moretti (named for the local brewer), with its distinctive speedway track around the outside was forsaken in the late 1970s to move to the Stadio Friuli, which in turn, was considerably upgraded before the 1990 World Cup.
Having acquired the rights to the stadium for the next 99 years, the Zebrette immediately set about upgrading their home. The new stadium, which is already well on the way to being complete, will incorporate the massive main stand of the old Stadio Friuli, but will add three state of the art stands around it.
The new Stadio Friuli is raising a lot of eyebrows, with Giampaolo Pozzo’s promises of bringing the fans a more interactive match-day experience. It may limit the capacity to around 25,000, but the extra features that the stadium offers may well serve to make the stadium a more welcoming place for both home and away fans to visit.
The club’s stated aim is to take fans away from televised football and into the stadium, and plans of including free wi-fi to aid communication and social media presence of the club and its supporters certainly suggest a trend towards inclusion.
The stadium design has been likened to the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar though, with the existing main stand of the Stadio Friuli being so large, it will be considerably larger than its Dutch counterpart.
Udinese have, at one point, drawn crowds of around 30,000 regularly, that peak coming in the 1980s. More recently, crowds, even when the Zebrette were featuring in the Champions League, bounce around 20,000 – generally settling just under that figure.
The smaller stadium, which will have a very similar capacity to the Stadio Moretti which the club abandoned because it was too small, makes sense in those terms.
Costing around €45 million, the new Stadio Friuli’s construction is already well underway. The running track is already a thing of the past – such a wide space between the fans and pitch being adjudged to take away a great deal from atmosphere; which is key to the new design.
Udinese will only play in Trieste until their pitch is ready for Serie A football and then the stands will be built around the pitch while it is in use, with the final work scheduled for completion next summer. Photographs from inside the building site show that the old pitch has already been removed and that carpet of earth will soon be sprouting grass.
New laws in place in Italy should allow stadium construction to be is easier to plan and develop, meaning a shorter time between proposals and development which might help to make long-mooted stadiums a reality in the near future.
That said, despite a lot of grounds being renovated in 1990, the proposed European Championships in 2016 never came to pass, so stadium developments in Italy that were suggested with that tournament in mind have largely been shelved.
On the other hand France, as a result of winning the right to host that tournament, is beginning to see the opening of its new or improved stadiums ready for Euro 2016.
That setback means that Italy’s stadium development has to be carried out with funding from either local authorities or private backers; certainly, Torino spent the early part of the year securing funding for a rebuilding of the Stadio Filadelfia.
As football fans know, there is a vast difference between clubs ‘planning’ to move stadium and actually doing it. There is a trend towards stadiums costing smaller amounts of money, which will only serve to help cash-strapped clubs move away from their old stadia.
Torino’s proposed Filadelfia development is set to come in at less than €10 million – possibly less than the Granata will receive for the sale of Angelo Ogbonna.
This summer, in both Cagliari and Udine, there is work towards making football viewing a more pleasurable experience, and, though both teams will start the season in Trieste, there should be two largely new stadiums for Serie A fans to visit by next summer.
This stadiums make the fans’ experience at the match key to their construction, which is always a good thing.