Italian league vows to be thorough to eradicate racism

In this Nov. 9, 2019 file photo, Brescia's Mario Balotelli, center, walks on the pitch during the Serie A soccer match between Brescia and Torino at the Mario Rigamonti Stadium in Brescia, Italy. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2019

Italian league vows to be thorough to eradicate racism

  • The season has been marred by constant episodes of racist chants and discriminatory behavior

MILAN: The Italian league has vowed to go “stadium by stadium” in its bid to eradicate racism from soccer in the country.
The season has been marred by constant episodes of racist chants and discriminatory behavior but Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo promised that the governing body is working on “dozens of initiatives.”
“Too little has been done before, almost nothing, now we’re facing it,” De Siervo said at a news conference at the Lega Serie A headquarters on Tuesday. “We need time to resolve it though. Football has to be an example.
“We’ll go stadium by stadium, sector by sector and identify these people to keep them out of there.”
Racist chants have recently been aimed at Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie, Dalbert Henrique, Miralem Pjanic, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalidou Koulibaly and Mario Balotelli. All the players targeted — except for Pjanic, who is Bosnian — are black.
“We’re working with what we have,” De Siervo said. “The aim is to go and take them one by one and ban them from the stadiums but to make sure that 10, 20, 30 people can’t ruin the image of a city, of a country.
“There are very real initiatives but I can’t tell you because we’re analyzing a lot of things ... we need to improve the regulations, lobby the government, create the conditions so we can have better instruments for the future. We also need to have campaigns with schools, in the media, campaigns that can give a direct and clear message.”
The one thing De Siervo does not want to see, however, is suspending matches for racist incidents.
“Personally, I’m against interrupting a game because it damages a whole system,” he said. “I understand the guys that are the target of this horrible thing ... but the aim is to intervene after the match, immediately, con severe sanctions.”
The press conference was hastily called after Italian media published an audio recording of De Siervo saying he had given the go-ahead for turning off microphones pointed at fans in stadiums to avoid television viewers hearing racist chants.
The audio was recorded on a mobile phone at a board meeting on Sept. 23 and leaked to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
De Siervo defended his comments, saying he was trying “to avoid transforming certain people into heroes” and prevent “the risk of imitation.”
“Taking the microphone away from violent people is a well-known act,” he added. “We’re not blocking anything by this, the police, the referee and officials from the Italian Federation and the league have the duty to analyze all that ... but television does something else, it offers a spectacle.”
However, the Italian soccer federation has reportedly opened an investigation into De Siervo’s comments.


Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

Updated 09 July 2020

Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

ROME: Preparing to complete a ninth Serie A campaign without winning the Scudetto, AC Milan decided returning to the pinnacle of football required a new approach.

Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation is at the center of it, linking up with Milan to scour the world for sponsors and use concerts and other high-profile events to attract new fans.

And who better to ask about how to end a title drought than the team that just won their league for the first time in 30 years?

“We have been talking to Liverpool,” Milan chief revenue officer Casper Stylsvig told The Associated Press, “because they’ve been through the same path as we are going through now.”

Milan are enduring their longest Serie A drought since the 1980s. Despite beating leader Juventus on Tuesday, even the top four Champions League places are out of reach in this pandemic-delayed season. It’s been seven years since Milan last competed in Europe’s elite competition.

“We’re working very hard to get back to where we should be, and from that perspective, it does help open doors when you have won seven Champions Leagues,” Stylsvig said. 

“Playing European football is top of the agenda. It is our natural habitat and somewhere we should be.”

Only Real Madrid has lifted the European Cup more often than Milan. But that seventh title was won 13 years ago, by beating Liverpool.

Now Liverpool are the lodestar for Milan, which have fallen to 21st in the Deloitte ranking of football’s moneymakers with revenue of €206.3 million  ($234 million) in the last financial year, a third of the income at the newly crowned Premier League champions.

“Four, five years ago, no one considered Liverpool and see where they are now,” Stylsvig said. “They obviously play very attractive football. They are winning, they have a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and now they are following suit from a commercial perspective. It has taken time, but their model seems to work.”

Liverpool have been run for a decade by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. Milan have also had American ownership for three years since the takeover by the Elliott Management hedge fund.

“We are obviously a global brand,” Stylsvig said in a telephone interview. “I’ve probably been talking too much in the Italian market in the last few years and (the coronavirus) sort of pushed us to think more global again.”

The pandemic that shut down sports produced the first public manifestation of the partnership with Roc Nation when Milan staged a live virtual fundraising concert headlined by Alicia Keys.

“I do think merging sport and entertainment could be the way of engaging new fans,” Stylsvig said. “The world has changed dramatically and we need to follow suit. Roc Nation is helping us, challenging us with that, having someone on the sideline to do that.”

The biggest audiences logging in to watch “From Milan with Love” were from China and the US.

With no games being played during the three-month Serie A shutdown — and crowds still prohibited from matches — Milan have had to find new ways of connecting with its fan base and fulfilling commercial deals.

“It’s been incredibly challenging,” Stylsvig said. “You basically have to rethink the model. So one of the first things we did was focusing much more on a digital space, creating content and trying to be engaging and trying to talk to our partners.”

Further down the line is moving into a new stadium, with plans to rebuild the San Siro it shares with Inter Milan.

“That will change the club,” Stylsvig said. “The revenues are incredibly important but also for the perception of the club.”