Soccer Magazine

Torino 0 Spezia 1

By Stuartnoel @theballisround

Sunday 15th January 2023 – Serie A – Stadio Olimpico, Turin

There’s inflation and there is football inflation. The type of magical economic conditions that football clubs have used for years as justification for ticket price increases well and truly over the underlying rates of inflation. The unwritten rules on this are that “if I can sell out a game on a cold January night against Fulham” (no disrespect to Fulham fans), “then I can put the price up by 15% and still they will come”. Whilst we see initiatives such as the £30 cap on Premier League away tickets, there is no end in sight to bring the majority of ticket prices in line with economic conditions.

Football clubs are businesses too, and need to create a return for their stakeholders and investors – I get that. But there’s a socio-economic element to their existence too. They play a fundamental part, or are at the center in some cases, of the local community and in times when the financial pressures are being felt by the majority, could more be done to make football more affordable? Based on what we see and know, I would say not in England, but elsewhere in Europe, there is certainly more than a passing nod to making tickets more affordable.

Back in November I did a four game, two day, trip to Italy, taking in three Serie A games (AC Milan, Monza and Juventus) plus a game at Brescia in Serie B. For three of those games, tickets were €25 or less, with entry at the San Siro for the Rossonero’s game with Spezia costing just €14 – cheaper than entry on the gate at the Dripping Pan. The exception was Juventus where demand far outstrips supply at the Allianz Stadium in Turin and tickets were over €130.

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Whilst the North London derby was being played out in front of 61,870 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, who will have paid upwards of £150 for a standard ticket, I had returned to Italy to take in another new ground in Serie A – The Stadio Olimpico in Turin, where, unlike their uptown neighbours, Juventus, a ticket in prime location ticket cost me just £22 (€25).

Being winter sport season, flights were plentiful to Turin, meaning a day return was less than £50 when originally booked. Yes, it was a 3.30am start for the 6.20am flight, and yes I had to endure a full flight back at 8.30pm with groups sharing videos of their mogul-jumping, off-piste gnarliness (I am just jealous after an ankle injury when I was 22 has precluded me wearing anything like a ski boot since), but it was worth it. Turin is a fantastic city – sitting somewhere between Milan and Florence in terms of looking down your nose at your battered, yet designer, trainers, whilst having just an underbelly of cultural highlights to keep you occupied for a morning.

And that’s what I needed. With five hours to kill before kick-off I racked up the steps, pounding the immaculate pavements and porticos (arched arcades). I headed to the Mole Antonelliana – still the world’s tallest unreinforced brick building in the world, and where the original great glass elevator rises from the floor to provide the most astonishing views of the city and the snow-covered alps in the distance. Except today it was closed, at least until 2pm, because they had a special guest. Who, I asked the guide. He said, as far as I could understand, it was American Actress Sissy Spacek. Whilst Ms Spacek’s work on screen and stage is far more impressive than my Tom Sawyer from the 1980 Woodville Primary School production of the same name, it surely didn’t warrant the closing of the whole building. I could return at 6pm should I wish to visit, the guide told me but they’d had the chance and I was moving into bigger and better things.

I took the metro to Lingotto, where the original Fiat factory had been converted into a hotel and shopping center. A lift up to the 5th floor, a €2 entrance fee and I was on the roof. Not just any old roof, but where, in the original Italian Job, Michael Caine had led his gang on a chase around the test track. Today, the roof has been converted into an open air art museum but you can still pound the track, although the steep banking at either end are out of bounds just in case you plunge down five floors and disturb the hotel guests during their Prosecco and Pasta. Beyond the railway line to the west was the Filadelfia, where I headed next, the stadium that Torino called home until 1962, and where arguably the best ever Italian club side played their games. From 1943 until the Superga Air Disaster in 1949 which robbed Italy, and Turin, of its greatest ever football team, they had been unbeaten here for 100 games.

The stadium fell into disrepair for many years, with some of the original terracing and ticket office, still visible today, sitting juxtaposition to the new main stand, built in 2017 as part of the training center for the club. Alas, there was to be no magic doors today and I had to make do with a peak through the fences at the relics from yestayear.

After leaving the Filadelfia, Torino moved into the Stadio Comunale, with Juventus before heading north to the white elephant of the Stadio delle Alpi, build for the 1990 World Cup. After a sixteen-year stint without Serie A football, the stadium was renovated and renamed the “Stadio Olimpico” on the back of the 2006 Winter Olympics. In a reversal of 1990, both Juventus and Torino moved back to the Olimpico during the demolition of the delle Alpi and the construction of the Allianz Arena, with Juventus using it until the end of the 2010–11 season, and Torino retaining it as their home stadium to the present day. And so here ends the lesson on football stadiums of Turin.

There wasn’t much in the way of a pre-match buzz. Whilst the visitors from the Ligurian coast didn’t have too far to come, it looked as if the home fans had better things to do with their Sunday afternoon, despite the very cheap tickets (ranging from £14) and the offer of a free Panini sticker album for everyone. It’s not as if this has been a poor season for the team. Coming into the game they sat in 9th place, relatively safe from any relegation dogfights. But if I was to sum up the mood in the ground it would be “apathy”. There was a general acceptance from the fans around me in the sparsely populated Distinti Granata that the football would be poor, the result would be a disappointment and the club would say how unlucky it was.

They were right on all three levels, although you would have never guessed it from the amazing support from the tifosi on the Curve Maratona who never missed a beat. The pre-match tunes, being pumped out took me back to school discos of the late 1980’s – Depeche Mode, Eurythmics and even some Yello before we headed into the 1990’s with a fine tribute to Faithless. During the party, the top brass wheeled out their celebrity guest onto the balcony of one of the executive boxes…Kevin Spacey. And now the penny dropped – it wasn’t Sissy Spacek at all, but the better known and not for many of the right reasons these days, Space-named actors who was apparently in town to collect an award. Obviously the internet hasn’t reached some of the households of those in charge of the club – either that or this was a ploy to try to divert attention from some of the topical news stories. Hard to top that special guest, unless someone in the PR team has a contact with a certain royal prince.

As for the game. Well, it was OK. The only goal, scored by Angolan international M’bala Nzola from the penalty spot in the 29th minute was a brief highlight in a tired performance by both sides. Naturally, your eyes are drawn to the Tifosi when games are this tepid. Having a perfect, elevated view on the half-way line, you spot the things you don’t normally see in the game, but today there was very little that put it above watching the mighty Rooks. But that is part of the beauty of the game outside of England – the 90 minutes of football are only part of the experience.

Game over, a leisurely walk back to the city centre, a swift half and it was back to Blighty thanks to British Airways.

So how did I do it? Here’s my five step plan for a day trip to Turin:

  1. Flights booked back in November with British Airways – £49.98 return – Gatwick to Turin at 6:20am, back at 8:35pm. Flight times perfect for a 12.30pm to 3pm kick off time.
  2. €14 return bus ticket (purchased just outside arrivals) from Turin Airport to Piazza Carlo Felice, opposite Porto Nuova station and metro. Buses depart every 15 minutes and take around 40 minutes. In the metro station you can buy a €4 daily transport ticket that covers all buses, trams and metro.
  3. For the Mole Antonelliana, head north from the bus stop, through the impressive piazza’s and then down Via Po. It is worth booking in advance to gain fast track entry for the lift, assuming there are no ‘celebrities’ visiting.
  4. For Lingotto, take the metro towards Bengasi, getting off at Lingotto. Cross the piazza and go into the shopping center where there are plenty of places to eat and drink. Take the lift at either end of the shopping center to the 5th floor for access to the roof.
  5. For tickets for the football, these tend to go on sale 2-3 weeks before most home games on VivaTickets. You need to register for the website and when you buy you need to add details of your ID which is checked when you enter. Tickets can be downloaded and printed at home. For most games, aside from the Turin derby, the visit of the Milanese teams or Napoli, tickets start from around €12. My recommendation is to buy for the Distini Granata – you are free to go wherever you please in that stand across all three tiers.
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