Barbara Berlusconi interview

(SOURCE: FourFourTwo Italia – March 2014 edition)

Barbara Berlusconi gave an interview to FourFourTwo Italia – below is a translation of the full article.

February 2014, 28 years of the Berlusconi era in Milan have been completed. When your father entered Via Turati, you were not born. What is your first rossoneri memory?

“I do not remember one in particular. Even as a small child, my father took me often to San Siro. Since then I have not stopped rejoicing and suffering in the fate of Milan.”

What is Milan and what does it represent for you – an object of the heart, a business, one or the other, both together?

“Both of these things.”

What is your real relationship with Galliani today?

“In previous months, there was certainly a harsh difference of opinion opened with Galliani, but that today I appreciate positively. A useful and constructive debate that concerned all areas of the club and that will bring significant changes. I am sure that this clarification and newfound central objective can only be good for Milan.”

The world of football is still very male-dominated. How do you see women in football?

“I do not see the presence of women as a merit or added value. But simply as a fact. Women are increasingly playing key roles in football clubs, and this is because clubs are now companies and football is its own business. And in all companies the number and importance of women is constantly growing.”

How come Italian football has lost its appeal in the last few years?

“It has underestimated the European competition that, season after season, has earned market share, taking portions of revenues from our important clubs. In 2000, three of the first five clubs in Europe, by revenue, were Italian. Today we are far behind. The model of football of the future is inevitably a mix of sporting success and the capacity to obtain commercial, financial and managerial results. And the best results on the field will go to those who have been able to adopt a structured and efficient commercial strategy.”

An example of an expert country?

“Germany, with stadiums that are owned, and rich sponsorships, without being silly they have created a virtuous system, an example to follow. Accounts in order, stadia full, development of commercial activity and many young players on the pitch. We must always remember then that football is not only a business for those who earn millions of Euros, but also for the many jobs it can create.”

So for you football is an industry?

“It has a turnover that produces, in our country, around €8b. But above all it produces, for the State, revenue of more than €1m. For this, and for the social value with regards to 40 million fans, you cannot pretend that it is an entertainment industry like any other.”

Do you have ideas to boost Milan in the sporting sector?

“These are matters within Adriano Galliani’s expertise. Milan is facing a major reorganisation. It is gearing up as best it can to face the new challenges of a football that has certainly changed. We will count very much on the youth, on a structure of scouts able to unearth new talent around the world. But this without giving up the big purchases, the top players.”

To create a strong squad without spending money or to create revenue in order to become a strong squad. What is your path?

“Both of these things. The objective is to sign young talent before they become top players and before the costs can be, for us, difficult to sustain. To increase the revenue, then, is a central challenge for us. Only this way can we self-finance, improve the structure and allow ourselves some more top players. It is a challenge that will give us the first results in the medium term, not before three years.”

The choice of Seedorf was agreed with your father?

“No. He is a choice of my father.”

Who was the best coach of Milan under Berlusconi and why? Which player is the symbol of his Milan?

“I don’t cite one in particular. Many have contributed to our story of success.”

You are a young lady, a mother of two children – how do you reconcile your love for them and the desire to be as close to them for as long as possible with the mountain of work commitments for which you have to account every day? And how difficult is it to not have privacy, or to have very little, considering that the spotlight will always be brighter on you?

“I am a privileged woman. Because I can count on trustworthy people to help me look after my children. In my mother Veronica and sister Eleonora, I also have two valuable allies. So I can count on a  lot of help during the day, to manage the kids, their movements, without being in constant anxiety. I am fortunate, but it is not easy. The commitments are always increasing, the thoughts, the pressure are not lacking. The affection is at my centre, but the job requires me to always be present.”

What does it mean, in the Italy of 2014, to be the third daughter of Silvio Berlusconi, the vice-president and managing director of Milan? The envious individuals that, in this case, are often also frustrated, say that you are favoured by your connections. The fans answer back that you are a woman of 29, educated, prepared, with clear ideas and ready to take charge of Milan. What is your response to one and the other?

“Everyone has the right to express an opinion and certainly, I repeat, I find myself in a privileged position. I would like, however, to be judged on the content and on the ideas that I have brought forward in these three years at Milan. I like the debate – the criticism does not scare me when it is constructive. I love to discuss and hear other opinions. However, it is necessary to take decisions, above all when you are deeply convinced.”

A good chunk of directors in Italian football are attached to their prestigious seats and belong to the Mesozoic era. There are directors that hold executive positions from before the fall of the Berlin Wall – with all respect to these people, when will the demolition [of this system] begin? Do you intend to contribute?

“I am not in the habit of using the generational flag as a stick against those who are older. There are prepared and valid people that, although they are not younger, are an added value thanks to their experience and ability. I am convinced, however, that a certain renewal is always desirable in order to avoid the formation of interest groups that block any change.”

A question on stadia – can you confirm that Milan want to build one of its own?

“I can confirm that we are evaluating alternative solutions to San Siro, but decisions have not yet been taken because the issue is very complex. It requires an in-depth analysis that is already underway with my colleagues.”

Do you think there is a way to solve the problem of stadium revenues?

“Yes, with the construction of owned stadia. The Italian stadia are feeling the effects of time. They were designed for the 1990 World Cup. Today, the stadium should be a place where the entertainment is not just for the 90 minutes of a match, but for seven days a week. I would like, for example, to see families spend an entire afternoon of the match inside a structure that can offer its customers restaurants, bars, gyms, rooms for meetings and conferences. Only this way can we increase revenues.”

At the derby you met Thohir – what impression did he make? What is Inter to you – an historic rival or, in today’s football, a rival like the others?

“Thohir is friendly and helpful. I have great respect for our cousins. I cannot call Inter a team like the others. There is great rivalry, but also respect that is an historic feature of Milan and Milanesi.”

Racism, incivility, curva closures that are then reopened by a sporting justice system incapable of applying its own rules. What do you promise to do against this phenomenon?

“On episodes of racism I have expressed my opinion several times – for me there must be zero tolerance. For too long it has pretended to not see and not hear. After the Boateng case finally something has changed.”

Financial Fair Play is a utopia or a set of rules that will work? Does it scare you?

“We will see if it is only a slogan or if it will truly be applied. It certainly requires a totally different management. Owners will have strong limits on the possibility to cover losses, and not because they don’t want to, but because this measure will not allow it anymore. Milan, in any case, like the other Italian clubs, is being called to win the ‘challenge of modernity’. We must structure ourselves to compete in international markets, to attract new commercial partners, to look to emerging countries, to grow brand awareness, to renew structures, to manage the brand 360 degrees. And above all, to diversify the revenues. All of our efforts and energy can no longer be spent in the sporting phase.”

But do you share the definition of Financial Fair Play?

“Today, this is the only way possible. And not just because UEFA imposes it, but because I am convinced of this. Today, only 9% of the financial resources of a club are made up of what they own, or rather their capital. The bank debts today are very heavy. It means that the people in football in reality do not possess anything, or they possess only a small part, and that if one day the banks can no longer sustain them, this reality will be destined to collapse.”

Is the measure of success of a club the results on the pitch?

“The results on the pitch are essential, but they are not everything. At the end of the 90s, many clubs invested their revenues from TV rights in wages and not to renew structures and create value. But this way nothing is left for the stadia or for development. In this sense, a club like Arsenal has followed the opposite philosophy – fewer sporting results, but a greater spectacle and commercial results. You can like it or not, but it is a model you have to watch with interest.”

For you football is a spectacle like the others?

“Not really, that’s a reductive statement. Our business, however, is to make a spectacle and offer entertainment. But football is also something more. As I have already had the chance to say – in football racial, social, political and economic differences between people do not exist. Football makes us all equal and all free – the despair and suffering of the mayor of the city of London is the same as that of a child in the suburbs of Soweto, the descendants of the Incas in Lima, the workers in the queue of the Tokyo metro. Football is the language of the world because we have not yet found anything on Earth with the same strength of narrative, something that generates the same power of identification between people.”

Is it true that you will open a new museum?

“The museum is only a part of the project that is under construction and that I have strongly wanted. First of all, a few months ago Milan changed location. Now our offices are modern and designed by a famous Italian designer, Fabio Novembre. But the new venue will be a real attraction open to anyone, Italians and foreigners, who want to come and visit us. As well as the museum, they will find a shop and a restaurant. All in the name of innovation and design. A place that will allow us, every day, to be put in contact with Milan fans.”

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