New Inter majority owner Erick Thohir has been met with a measure of skepticism from those surrounding the club, but has shown early positive signs of being able to lead the club forward.
Former President Massimo Moratti sold 70 percent of his shares in the club to the Indonesian magnate in mid-October, bringing about the end of an era that saw one of Italian football’s most recognizable families step away from one of its most decorated clubs.
And naturally, sections of supporters of the Nerazzurri have been hesitant to accept the new ownership.
Moratti, whose father Angelo also was chief patron of the outfit from 1955-68 and oversaw a period that came to be known retrospectively as ‘Grande Inter,’ the Great Inter, is indeed a popular figure after reversing the disappointment of the 90’s to bring home a score of Serie A championships and a Champions League title. Yet, despite apprehension over the new regime of Thohir, who also owns MLS’ D.C. United and a stake in the Philadelphia 76ers, he’s already begun to address the most critical issue facing Italian clubs at present: stadium ownership.
In Milan, after formally taking over the presidency from Moratti, despite his rebuffed insistence that the 68 year old remain in the role, the businessman has already met with Mayor Giuliano Pisapia to discuss plans to build a new stadium that would see the side depart the shared, publicly owned San Siro.
As a whole, Serie A faces the issue of lagging match day revenues, as all but Juventus’ new eponymous ground remain under the stewardship of either local councils or municipalities, meaning that most of the proceeds from gate receipts for games don’t flow into the coffers of the clubs.
To compound the issue, many of the stadiums are quite old and have faced neglect, as the committees responsible for them view their upkeep as an unworthy investment, leaving the clubs without adequate facilities, while the councils simultaneously hamper teams’ ability to build their own arenas for fear of losing revenues without tenants to play in the public grounds. And a law meant to provide relief and bring more ease to the process of private stadium ownership, the Legge Stadi, has become mired in endless red tape and will almost certainly never see the light of day again. Yet, there has been progress, and there is hope yet if dynamic owners can use their entire business acumen to grease the immovable skids of the situation.
After Juventus’ success in convincing Turin’s local council to allow the club to demolish the Stadio delle Alpi and build Juventus Stadium on the same lands, Udinese has secured a deal that has seen the club begin to entirely transform the existing Stadio Friuli and essentially take ownership of the stadium from authorities.
Roma’s new American owners have made significant breakthroughs, and in turn, have promised a new 60,000 capacity ultra-modern arena in the Italian capital in three years, while Fiorentina has announced plans to move out of the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
For someone like Thohir, an international businessman with a reputation for results, building a new stadium is a preoccupation, as he sees it as central to ushering in a new era of success at Inter.
Though the undertaking has only just started, his intentions have been made quite clear by the meeting with Milan’s mayor so early in his tenure, and it appears as if the new Nerazzurri chief won’t rest until ground is broken on a new stadium.
And so, supporters should take heart in such developments, as after a few years of hard work, Thohir may be able to provide Inter with exactly what it needs to compete consistently in the contemporary club soccer landscape.