Barbara Berlusconi Says Family Committed to AC Milan Soccer in Interview
Italy’s Berlusconi family is “still committed” to AC Milan SpA, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may return as chairman of the seven-time European champion soccer club, his daughter Barbara said in an interview.
Barbara Berlusconi was appointed to the AC Milan board in April. The 27-year-old, who has a degree in philosophy, also sits on the board of Fininvest SpA, the family’s investment company. Beside AC Milan, Fininvest owns stakes in publisher Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA (MN), broadcaster Mediaset SpA (MS) and financial-services company Mediolanum SpA. (MED)
AC Milan, which Silvio Berlusconi bought in 1986, captured its 18th Serie A league title in the 2010-2011 season. AC Milan leads Italy’s top division by two points this season over Juventus Football Club SpA (JUVE), which has played two fewer matches.
She responded to questions from Bloomberg News by e-mail.
Q: You joined AC Milan’s board about a year ago. How should we interpret your move? A: To reaffirm and strengthen the tie between the team and the family, which still wants to get fans excited and look at the future.
Q: So the Berlusconi family, after 25 years of successes, is still committed to soccer? A: For sure. The family has invested significantly in AC Milan and those who think it’s just a luxury toy for us haven’t understood how soccer has changed today. Soccer has also become a business, not just a sport passion. Either you change or there is the risk of not being able to face the new challenges.
Q: What would your father’s return as AC Milan chairman mean? A: His return would be fundamental to give the team a new impetus.
Q: Soccer is not only a passion but also a significant cost for the family. Are you worried about financial Fair Play or do you see it as an opportunity? A: Financial Fair Play forces teams to change their approach compared to the past. Soccer teams will have to transform into proper companies. The effort will have to go beyond the sport phase.
Q: So what’s your view on financial Fair Play? A: It’s pointless to talk about whether it’s right or wrong now. Its objective is that teams have to plan for their needs based on their revenue, making them more accountable in the medium and long term. The financial Fair Play has the shortcoming that it’s too focused on controlling the income statement rather than the cash flow, which I think is more important. Soccer teams have for too many years lived behind the more basic economic and financial rules. They have to take this into account.
Q: How can teams do that? A: If you can only spend what you get, then you have to keep costs in check and increase revenue. It’s a challenge that can become an opportunity.
Q: How is the soccer of the future going to be? A: The model of this sport in the future will inevitably be a mix of field wins, and commercial and financial results. Abroad sports managers, who also come from other industries, are appreciated whereas in Italy they’re undervalued. In the future, also because of financial Fair Play, teams with the best results on the field will also be those with an efficient commercial structure.
Q: Is Italian soccer in crisis today? A: No, but Italian soccer is growing less than in other countries. In 2000, Serie A revenue was 1 billion euros and today it’s 1.5 billion euros. In the same period it has more than doubled in the U.K. But Italian soccer has strong brands and it can still attract money and interests. But it needs a long-term vision. Teams need to get the right structure and implement a strategy that goes beyond the Sunday to Sunday business.
Q: How do you see AC Milan in the future? A: A winning team that can also become an entertainment company. We need a squad with an excellent technical level and focus on players, an efficient cost structure, with higher and more diversified sources of revenue.
Q: What’s your relationship with Chief Executive Officer Adriano Galliani? A: At AC Milan I’m learning and I have the opportunity to get to know this world helped by people whom, like Galliani, have made the history of Italian soccer.
Q: Soccer is usually regarded as a male environment: Why you and not your brothers Pier Silvio or Luigi? A: Since when I was a kid I’ve always been a big fan of AC Milan. And because sport management is a sector that I’m keen on and stimulates me.
Q: Is soccer a chauvinist world? A: Yes, it is. But it’s changing. Teams are structuring themselves like any other business and in all companies the role of competent and skilled women is increasingly important. Soccer won’t be an exception.
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