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Florence and Venice venue projects lose €150m of EU funding

Bosco Dello Sport

Featured image credit: City of Venice

The European Commission has confirmed that Italy has been barred from directing almost €150m of Covid recovery funds towards major stadium projects in Florence and Venice.

Italy had earmarked €93.5m of European Union-backed National Recovery and Resilience Facility (PNRR) cash for the Bosco Dello Sport project in Venice, and €55m for the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The latter is the home of Serie A club Fiorentina and is one of the stadiums put forward to host UEFA EURO 2032 matches should Italy’s bid be successful. The PNRR cash for Venice was to be put towards the wider sports forest project rather than the stadium itself.

Italian ministers confirmed that the two Integrated Urban Plans (IPP) would be among the beneficiaries of the PNRR cash back in April 2022, and it was only in late March 2023 that the Commission challenged the decision. There were three core sticking points, according to the Italian Government – port concessions, eligibility of investments into district heating networks and the proposal to direct funds towards the two venue projects.

Now a statement issued by the Italian Government has confirmed that the stadium projects cannot be the recipients of funds.

It said: “The interventions of the Bosco dello Sport in Venice and the Franchi stadium in Florence cannot be reported at the value of the PNRR resources. The services of the Commission, in fact, following a further detailed investigation, confirmed the non-eligibility of both interventions in the context of the Integrated Urban Plans (IPP) of the respective metropolitan cities.”

It emerged last month that Serie A football club Fiorentina will require a temporary home for two seasons whilst the €193.4m redevelopment of the Franchi takes place. The Municipality of Florence owns the historic stadium and is leading its renovation project. In March 2022, the Italian division of engineering and design consultancy Arup was selected to lead the revamp, securing the architectural and multidisciplinary design contract.

The City of Venice in December launched a tender process after approving investment in April of €283.5m in a project that will be underpinned by a sports complex featuring a new 16,000-seat stadium for Serie B football club Venezia, plus a 10,000-seat arena.

The Municipality of Venice earlier unveiled plans for a €333.8m investment scheme. The funding will be distributed for ventures across the local region, with its driving force being the ‘Bosco dello Sport’ project.

The Commission is concerned whether the projects fit with the recovery plan’s goal to “regenerate, revitalise and enhance large degraded urban areas.” 

In March 2023, Politico, citing EU officials, said the Franchi, built in the fourth most expensive neighbourhood in central Florence, doesn’t fit the bill for PNRR funds, while designating Venice’s greenfield site an urban regeneration project is also said to be a leap too far.

The redevelopment of the Franchi is a pet project for Nardella, who issued a strong response when the Commission announced its opposition to the plans in March. He stated that all projects under Italy’s PNRR shouldn’t be recognised, if the Florence and Venice schemes do not pass muster.

Nardella told reporters: “Italy must do everything to be respected and we expect the utmost commitment from the Government. It is worth saying once again for the umpteenth time that the Franchi stadium is a unique case in Italy and in Europe, and it cannot in the slightest be compared to any other Italian or European football stadiums, excepting the Flaminio in Rome which shamefully has been abandoned for years. 

“The Franchi stadium is a national monument and a public asset and belongs to the Municipality and Florentines. I think it is elementary to ask for public funding for a public good. Once the state constraints were put in place by the then Draghi government, it was clear to everyone that any private intervention on the Franchi stadium would have been impossible. 

“What was the alternative? Leave the Franchi abandoned? The real shame is seeing an abandoned stadium like the Flaminio in Rome that bears the same signature as (architect Pier Luigi) Nervi. I will fight tooth and nail for the Franchi to be redeveloped and not abandoned.”