MILAN AS Roma have struck a deal with city officials over building a new stadium in the Italian capital, opening the way for a project meant to boost the Serie A soccer club's revenue.
The 52,500-seat Stadio Della Roma, to be built in the city's south-west, was originally set to open in the current season but has faced years of delays as the club waited for approval.
The agreement, reached late on Friday, marks a welcome victory for Rome's beleaguered mayor, Virginia Raggi, and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, whose leadership of the city has been plagued by party infighting, resignations and scandals since winning municipal elections last year.
After inheriting the project from her predecessor, Raggi has been pushing for its design to be changed, including for big parts of a business park planned next to the stadium to be reduced, and for it to be more environmentally sustainable.
"We have always said that we were in favour of making the stadium happen but only within the law and for the good of our city. We have succeeded," Raggi said on her Facebook page, adding the hashtag #UnoStadioFattoBene (#AStadiumDoneWell).
"We have avoided the monster project inherited from the previous administration... a new stadium will be built, but one that is modern, environmentally friendly, technologically advanced and, above all, one that respects much more the environment and the territory."
AS Roma's pursuit of the project follows the example of Serie A leaders Juventus, who became the first top Italian club to own their own ground, having built a 41,000-seat stadium in 2011, instead of relying on the Stadio delle Alpi which they had to share with Torino.
Such purpose-built, modern facilities could help Italy in any future bid to host either a World Cup or European Championship.
The new stadium will also help Roma to raise revenue. The club currently alternate with cross-city rivals Lazio in borrowing the publicly-owned Stadio Olimpico for their games.
"This is somewhat of an historic day not only for Roma, bringing our dream of having a modern infrastructure one step closer, but also for the city as a whole," the club's managing director Mauro Baldissoni said after concluding the talks.
Public ownership of stadiums is common in Italy but leaves clubs unable to modernise their facilities and make money from mega-stores and restaurants, as do clubs such as Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Having their own stadium could also give Roma more control over those attending their games.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Clare Fallon)