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Commisso calls for law change as Fiorentina rejects Mercafir plan

Fiorentina has confirmed it will not participate in the public tender for land earmarked for a new stadium at the Mercafir site, as the Italian Serie A football club’s president, Rocco Commisso, stated he remains committed to developing a new home in the local area, despite the challenges presented by laws in the country.

Fiorentina confirmed its decision yesterday (Thursday) after it last month put forward multiple concerns over the proposed site, stating that if cost and timing issues were not addressed its willingness to pursue the project would “quickly fade”.

Fiorentina commented on the proposed Mercafir project after local authorities made tender documents for the site public, with bids due by April 7. In November, Florence city council approved a plan for the development of land targeted for the new stadium.

The Mercafir area, a food and beverage market in north-eastern Florence, had been pinpointed for the stadium, with the proposal seeing the land divided in two. The stadium would have occupied the southern part of the land, with a new market being developed in the north.

In an open letter explaining the club’s decision, Commisso (pictured) said: “In October 2019, the Municipality of Florence proposed the possibility of building a new stadium in the area of ​​the Mercafir complex, which measures 14.8 hectares.

“At the time, the Municipality believed that the Mercafir area was the only option available within the municipal area that could be well combined with the three important objectives set by me: 1. Swift timeframes for regulatory approvals regarding the stadium and end of works expected by September 2023. 2. Reasonable costs for the purchase and development of the site, to be maintained even after the completion of the stadium. 3. Total control by Fiorentina of the construction project and management of the stadium after its completion.

“Unfortunately, after a careful evaluation of the particular financial and contractual conditions of the public tender for Mercafir, as well as of the inherent risks, Fiorentina believes that none of the three conditions has been met.”

Fiorentina has played at the Stadio Artemio Franchi since it opened in 1931 and efforts to either redevelop the facility or build a new stadium intensified after the Florence-based club was taken over by Italian-American businessman Commisso in June 2019.

In September, fresh plans were put forward for the redevelopment of the Franchi involving the formation of a “stadium inside the stadium”. In his letter, Commissio touched on the potential redevelopment of the stadium.

He said: “In September 2019, we presented a preliminary restructuring plan for the Franchi to the City and the Superintendent, which could have been completed within 30 months. The project would have provided for the full coverage of the stands for all spectators, a complex equipped with air conditioning system with commercial activities, modern restrooms and restaurants and large sky boxes, while preserving the main architectural ideas. However, the response of the Superintendent has been negative, in particular regarding the idea of ​​replacing the original stands with restructured stands closer to the pitch.”

Italian law has hindered the development of new stadia in the country, with AS Roma’s attempts to develop a new home the most high-profile example. Commisso has been a vocal critic of the current regulations and in the wake of Fiorentina’s latest stadium blow, he again hit out at the system.

Commisso said that it remains his “strong desire” that a new stadium be located in the city of Florence, or at least within the greater metropolitan area. He called for a change in the laws “to allow for more flexibility in the case of a football stadium built 90 years ago, particularly where renovation preserves the principal features of architectural significance (unfortunately, this is a problem encountered at other dilapidated sporting facilities throughout Italy that are left abandoned because it is impossible to breathe new life into them).”

Commisso added: “As is regularly done in the United States, especially related to new sporting venue construction, Italian cities might seek to find ways to incentivise private investments that will result in new jobs and increased local taxes while stimulating economic growth and enhancing the cities’ worldwide image.

“Perhaps, someday we could find an Italy that is not only proud of its cultural heritage, but also keeps its eyes on the future by rapidly seizing on opportunities to further economic development.

“Making it easier for those like me who want to make significant long-term investments in a short period to improve conditions in cities across the nation should be the policy goal of any government that aspires to deliver its citizens a bright economic future.”

Image: Fiorentina