Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso is back doing what he does best: making waves with bold public statements. Yesterday morning, he swung by the Careggi hospital north of Florence to chat with students there (which is a pretty cool thing for him to do). As quoted by Calcio e Finanza (among others), the Viola patron was in fine form, perhaps buoyed by his club’s recent run of success.
He first took aim at rule breakers in the Italian game, and it’s hard not to see this is a shot aimed straight at Juventus, who’ve already faced a 15-point deduction for financial irregularities that may include further penalties down the line, pending an investigation. Given his record of exchanging barbs with Andrea Agnelli, Pavel Nedved, and the rest of the now-resigned Bianconeri board, his delight is almost palpable.
His comment that, “Some teams have been allowed to get ahead despite breaking the rules,” oozes satisfaction and has been well-received by Fiorentina supporters as another blow against the perceived favorable treatment that has benefited Juventus and other big clubs for years. Given the nature of the current investigation and the general history of calcio, this is a big old bistecca for the base.
Unfortunately, Commisso was unable to resist attacking his critics within the Fiorentina fan base either, mocking “the minority, the ones that make the most noise” for any negative comments about his tenure while insisting that the majority of Viola fans still back him to the hilt.
It’s no surprise that this bravado only emerges when the team is doing well, as that’s been his modus operandi since purchasing the organization: remaining silent when supporters or journalists disagree, however gently, with his approach, before lashing out in the press, attacking paragons of journalism such as Mario Sconcerti with the same gusto that he leveled falsehoods at this very website.
If it feels like this is falling back into familiar territory for a Rocco media appearance, well, that’s because it is. As you can probably guess, his next topic was finances. He reiterated that the club’s valuation (€400 million) is now more than double what he paid in 2019 (€165 million) despite the loss of revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic while boasting about the state-of-the-art Viola Park, which is, to his immense credit, looking fantastic ahead of its expected opening in April.
For the numerous fans who have criticized Commisso for his fixation on finances while seeming to ignore the tailspins his club seems to be constantly entering on the pitch, it’s just more of the same. However, his final comments will doubtless catch the ears of Florentines and cause some anxiety, particularly for the ultras.
He claimed that it coss $1,000 for a family of four to see a game at Yankee Stadium, while a season ticket at the Stadio Artemio Franchi costs €250 and lamenting the fact that Fiorentina can’t invest due to its curtailed revenue streams. While that’s a fair point, especially after the fiasco of the new stadium, he may want to choose his words a bit more carefully next time, as he sounds as if he’s considering a dramatic hike in ticket prices.
It’s easy to understand why he would want more money for the club, as the gap between the megaclubs and everyone else yawns ever-wider; Rocco’s comment that AC Milan earned €9 million in gate receipts for a Champions League match last year, while Fiorentina failed to crack €8 million in gate receipts for the total season, is eye-opening. Trying to increase revenues by charging more to get into the stadium, though, is a really terrible idea.
Perhaps he and Joe Barone will realize that antagonizing the Curva Fiesole and other supporters by increasing ticket prices is a deeply counterproductive move. The Franchi is one of the most electric stadia in Italy and Florence, as one of two big teams in Italy that doesn’t share its city with another top flight side, unites inside the arena in a truly unique manner. Increasing prices will smother that atmosphere, making it impossible for fans to show up in such numbers and with metronomic regularity.
The Curva has largely supported Commisso since he bought the club, although Barone’s popularity seems to be waning rapidly. While some more casual fans have been turned off by what they perceive as the Mediacom mogul’s grandstanding, the ultras have held their ranks behind him. Restricting access to games, though, would undo that in a heartbeat and could even lead to a full-scale revolt, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the fall of Flavio Pontello.