By Samindra Kunti
September 16 – Controversial Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis tends to dream big. His latest big idea a shake-up of the European game via an alternative ‘Super League’ with entry based on merit and which he believes could generate a €10 billion investment.
His club were not a part of the cabal that sought to break away from the established European club competition structure with their own Super League, but De Laurentiis still argues that European football is broken. He was an opponent of the European Super League proposal.
“The system doesn’t work any more,” said De Laurentiis in an interview with the Daily Mail. “The Champions and Europa Leagues don’t generate sufficient income for the clubs to justify participating in it.”
He has been a critic of both the Champions League and the Europa League in the past. On Thursday, Napoli will face Leicester City in their Europa League curtain raiser of the season, but the Napoli president is looking towards the future and claimed that he is working on plans of his own to overhaul European club football with a proposal that while projecting a €10 billion cash injection, would also shrink domestic leagues.
“We need to reduce the number of games by reducing the size of the top divisions across Europe,” explained De Laurentiis. “Also, we create a European league with a democratic system of entry, based on what teams achieve in their domestic competitions. I have examined a project ready to bring €10 billion to the European game, but we need willingness and total independence.”
“To be competitive, you need more top-class players. That means you have to spend more money – and the prize money from the European competitions doesn’t account for that. That is why the clubs need to speak to each other to come up with a more modern and lucrative tournament for everyone in it.”
De Laurentiis, who acquired Napoli 2004 when the club played in the third tier of Italian football, also had a stark warning about keeping a young audience – Gen Z – on board.
“If we don’t change the rules of the game and make it a better spectacle, young people will abandon us and football will no longer be the central part of our lives,” warned the 72 year old De Laurentiis.
“My research tells me that people between the ages of eight and 25 have stopped watching football and prefer playing with smartphones – they have totally transformed our children,” he said.
“I’m not saying that the habit of watching live football in a stadium will die, but now we have the ‘virtual stadium’, which can attract billions of people to play games against each other. Who knows if we will manage to get them back down the route of the greatest and most influential sport in the world?”
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