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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Born in the USA? RedBird to Bring American Concepts to Italian Soccer

  • AC Milan owner wants to expand his stadium development concept to the rest of Serie A.
  • Italy’s top flight of pro soccer continues to lag behind the Premier League, LaLiga, and Bundesliga.
AC Milan

An American style of doing business is increasingly infiltrating Italian pro soccer. 

Gerry Cardinale, head of RedBird Capital Partners and owner of Serie A’s AC Milan said he is advancing plans to build a new, 70,000-seat stadium for the club, with the design of the facility featuring many amenities common to U.S. facilities, as well as an adjacent mixed-use development increasingly popular among other American teams. That, by itself, is not surprising as the club has been seeking for months to leave Giuseppe Meazza Stadium at San Siro, the 97-year-old facility it shares with local rival Inter Milan, for a new venue—even though Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala continues to press for a renovation to the historic San Siro.

But Cardinale has much bigger aspirations and wants to expand the stadium development model to the rest of Italy.

“I’m going to create a company that’s going to build this stadium [for AC Milan], and then, frankly, I want to take that company and have it go build stadiums for all the other teams in Serie A,” Cardinale said recently at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit in London. “Because on one hand, I wear my AC Milan hat and we want to win the [championship]. On the other hand, I want to help Serie A narrow this gap [to the Premier League].”

‘A Big Gap’

The Italian financial gap also is not new, with Serie A continuing to lag well behind not only the Premier League in total revenue but also Spain’s LaLiga and Germany’s Bundesliga. But further pressures continue to grow across the Serie A, particularly as ownership money from well-resourced countries such as Saudi Arabia continues to transform global soccer. 

Despite growing investment in Italian soccer by U.S. companies such as RedBird, Serie A in 2022 posted its worst collective financial loss in 15 years. Many owners of Italian clubs have previously sought to elevate their situations through enhanced facilities, only to find resistance in numerous areas, particularly regulatory and political ones.

“There’s a big gap between Serie A and the other leagues,” said former AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimović at the summit. “It’s all about the budget, the economics. Italy needs something more; they need something new.”

Editors’ note: RedBird IMI, of which RedBird Capital Partners is a joint venture partner, is an investor in Front Office Sports.

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