On Thursday, Sassuolo emerged victorious in a public auction to own the arena where the club plays its home fixtures, the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia. Neroverdi owner Giorgio Squinzi bid €3.65 million in the successful takeover bid, besting the offer made by Reggiana president Alessandro Barilli by only €100,000, the third division side’s patron having also had the backing of the municipality’s local council.
The sale will only be made official on Dec. 15 following a period in which another investor could secure rights to the ground’s title with a tender at least 10 percent in excess of that made by Squnizi, though such a situation is quite unlikely save an extraordinary event. Sassuolo CEO Giovanni Carnevali expressed satisfaction at the results of the auction, noting significant development opportunities that have arisen as a result.
The club’s move to privately possess the stadium is ambitious in and of itself, as Sassuolo only won promotion to the top flight for the first time ahead of the current campaign and are already taking steps towards further growth.
Serie A has been slow on the uptake in the modernization of its grounds and has fallen behind its European counterparts in recent years, though progress has been made through Juventus’ opening of their new eponymous arena two years ago. Meanwhile, Udinese have already begun to revamp the Stadio Friuli in a unique deal that will see the Zebrette own the ground at the completion of the project.
Sassuolo’s boldness in making the leap to private ownership so soon in their Serie A history is only another positive sign, serving to inspire other outfits to do the same and do everything necessary to counteract the red tape that has hampered attempted development for years in Italy.
The takeover does come with a single sticking point, however, as some of the Neroverdi supporters have expressed dissatisfaction with what is essentially a permanent move for the side to Reggio Emilia. Having made a meteoric rise from the lower reaches of Italian football, Sassuolo’s home stadium, the Stadio Enzo Ricci, has a capacity of only 4,008 and had to be abandoned to as not to run afoul of the required specifications to participate in the upper tiers.
Reggio Emilia sits approximately 16 miles north of Sassuolo, and thus fans have been burdened with the need to travel a significant distance to attend matches, with the geographic separation now confirmed as a permanent arrangement through the purchase of the Mapei Stadium.
Despite this single drawback, however, the deal remains a master stroke by the newly-promoted club, who’ve taken responsibility already for bringing Serie A up to speed in an area where it is sorely lacking.
New Inter owner Erick Thohir has already expressed interest in building a fresh ground for the Milanese giants, while Roma are deep in the planning process for a new stadium under a Boston-based American consortium; in short, a long-awaited revolution in Italy finally seems to be well under way.