The Great Palermo Stadium Mystery

Stadio Palermo Nuovo

Back to the drawing board for Palermo’s proposed new stadium.

Over the past few years the management at Palermo have been talking a lot about the proposed new stadium and why it’s vital for both the football club and the city. It actually makes an awful lot of sense for Palermo (the Rosanero and the city) to finally invest in its stadium, whether that ends up being a brand new shiny arena or an overhaul of the Renzo Barbera. At some point in the future that will happen. As to exactly when and what that looks like remains a big question.

The current plans drafted for the new stadium by architect Gino Zavanella need to be revised for various reasons; some bureaucratic and some economic – none of which have clearly been specified. If that sounds vague, it’s because Palermo have been coy on the exact reasons why the proposal has effectively stalled bar saying that it was due to a compensation policy that is no longer applicable – making the plans redundant.

It’s remarkable to think that Zavanella started his Palermo stadium project three years ago and in that time almost nothing has happened. Even for a country notorious for its levels of bureaucracy and red tape, especially with regard to building projects, that’s pretty impressive. You have to question just how robust the actual proposal was and how much the club wanted to push it through. Cynics could easily argue that it’s just been another smokescreen to give the aura of progression without actually wanting to follow through with it. Much like the transfer policy over the past few years and more recently talk of Mexican investors, for example.

Let’s face it. It all looked too good to be true anyway. The pictures and promotional videos, which are most easily found on Zavanella’s Gau Arena website, do a great job of making this whole project look serious and authentic. Maybe it is. Either way, perhaps it will be took long before the next set of designs, stunning imagery and triumphant videos are released to whet the appetite.

On the flipside to this pessimistic viewpoint, Andrea Cardinaletti, the CEO of the Rosanero, is still taking a good game. In recent interviews he’s been bullish and has stuck with the rhetoric that Palermo will build a new stadium and that it’s integral to the future of the club. Most importantly, he has said that Palermo (the club and not the city) will fund the new stadium, which is a major factor in why this could all actually happen.

Italian teams such as Palermo are losing out on serious match-day revenue by hosting their games in municipally-owned stadiums. They merely rent the stadiums, they don’t own them and are restricted in how they can renovate the grounds from their home city, relying on investment from owners to drive success on the pitch.

Juventus broke that mould and the shackles of municipality with the Juventus Arena, which has coincided with an upturn in the fortunes of the club in terms of success, global reputation and revenue. It is impossible not to notice that the Juventus Arena is also the only Serie A ground that is packed each week with the other teams struggling to get anywhere near half full.

Therefore, it is no surprise that a whole host of Italian clubs are looking at making the same step as Juventus in a move that is fueled by necessity to compete both domestically and for the bigger clubs on the European stage.

It’s crazy to think that most of the stadiums in Italy were last renovated for Italia ’90. At that time, the Barbera was one of those that benefited with the additional tier added to boost the capacity. These upgrades were merely superficial and it’s the infrastructure and services where Italian stadiums are seriously dated, especially when compared to the grounds in England, Germany and France.

The problem for Palermo is that Zamparini’s impatience directly affects the stability of the team and its success both on and off the pitch. His erratic behaviour makes the club unattractive to sponsors – we still don’t have a main shirt sponsor this season – and any sort of investment beyond a complete buyout to overhaul the image of the club. His lack of investment on the pitch also makes it hard for the team to be competitive.

There seems little point in splashing €150 to €200m on a new stadium if the team is barely capable of holding its own in Serie A. It’s hard to see how Palermo would ever fund the outlay and then repay the amount, especially when there is such reluctance to invest in the team. It would make much more sense to make the team competitive first, which would pull the fans back through the doors. That is the point to consider investing in a new stadium, not now.

Until that investment happens, sadly the cynics are probably right.

2 thoughts on “The Great Palermo Stadium Mystery

  1. It’s a stark truth. Progress in Italy is always difficult. Sicily even worse. Add Zamparini to the equation and any talk of a new stadium cannot possible be considered as a realistic project.

  2. Very interesting story. The Cagliari situation sums up the Italian stadia situation at the moment. It’s too much money for the councils to lose too.

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