Roma President Jim Pallotta admits he expected to have a new stadium in progress by now, but he never thought about walking away.
“I think when we first took over the team, the objective was to utilise Rome and its history and attempt to build a global brand that could help us to be successful on the pitch. When I look back on the first six years, I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve made some mistakes but I think in some areas, we’ve more than punched above our weight,” the Boston business magnate told the official club website.
“I think on the football front, consistently making Champions League, even without the finances that come from owning our own stadium, helped us in building Roma into a sustainable global brand.
“Obviously the stadium delays have set us back by two or three years. We thought we’d be much, much closer to opening a stadium by now and that would help drive significantly more revenues to help us compete against the biggest clubs consistently.
“I think the whole merchandising area has been frustrating because we haven’t been able to go in the direction we would have wanted, but things are changing. Things like ticketing haven’t been managed that well in the past but now we finally have ticketing going in the right direction.
“On commercial, it’s taken a while to get that up to speed from where we were starting out, and the last couple years have been a lot better. I think last year was great, with some great global partnerships, but we need to drive further revenues to help us compete on the pitch. That’s just a fact of life.
“Sometimes in the past I’ve felt a bit frustrated that maybe some people in the business area haven’t shared the same sense of urgency or desire to reach for the stars that I’m used to or what I expect. So there’s been a mixture of positives and frustrations.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m never totally satisfied but, I think we’re trying to build that global brand and, anecdotally, I do think that Roma has a lot more respect generally in the global world of football today than it may have had six years ago.
“We can’t become a top 10 club without a stadium. We can have great years, like we did last year and have periods where we go deep in the Champions League and move forward, but if you want to be a Top 10 club, and I’m not measuring it by revenues, I’m measuring it by everything – on the pitch, how we’re respected, qualitative issues, quantitative issues, how we do in media, how we do in social, all of those things… we need more money to compete and that is why I say the stadium is the game changer for us.
“If people think I’m more obsessed with the stadium than the team then they are simply not getting it – it’s because I’m obsessed with the team that I am so determined to deliver this stadium so we can have a team that can compete on something closer to a level playing field.
“I think in the last few years, if you take it as a totality, I think we’ve been a top 20 club. On the football front, there’s probably two to three teams in Spain, one or two teams in France, two teams in Germany, that’s seven teams right there. Then you probably take six teams in the UK and that’s 13 and then you’ve got maybe five in Italy. So if you look at it that way, we’re certainly a top 20 team on the pitch. In some areas off the pitch, I think we’re definitely a top 10 club.”
Pallotta was asked if he had ever thought about walking away from Roma.
“No, never. I’m 61 in two weeks and I still feel totally energised by this project. When I’m 75 years old, maybe I won’t be the guy sat here running it, but it’s not a short-term project for me.
“I speak to a lot of fans and I know they understand what we’re trying to do. I even speak to some fans of other clubs and they say, ‘I might not like your club but you’re doing a great job for Italian football and we need this’.
“You will always get someone who will say, we’re only interested in trading players to make money, and I’m like, ‘Really? I haven’t seen a penny in my pocket from transfers’.
“Well, in five years’ time, the team has to be playing in the new stadium. I’d love it if we have a great team on the pitch, competing for trophies, an excited fan base in Rome and all over the world and a stable management across the board.
“I want people to know that I did everything I could possibly do for Roma. Do I sit here and go, ‘Oh, I want to have four Champions League trophies’? Of course I do but I have to be realistic as well. Leicester proved that amazing things can happen in football, but if we’re consistently and seriously competing for trophies on the pitch and we’re doing things in a first class manner off the pitch, then I think that’s something I can be proud of.
“At the end of the day, when I do walk away, I want the perception to be that we had a great team that wore the Roma colours with pride and battled on the pitch for the fans and the city and that we were a first class organization. I want people to know that we did things right, we competed and we tried to win. The perception has to be that, otherwise I’ve failed.”