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Roma goes for US style branding


American chairman James Pallotta wants to use US-style branding and management to turn AS Roma into a profitable venture. At present Manchester United is worth some $3.9bn and Roma at less than $200m, but the Boston-based hedge fund manager aims to bridge that chasm. It's not an easy task because Serie A is the least profitable of Europe's top leagues.

The key to its future plans is to follow Juventus and build its own stadium. The club has identified a site on the outskirts of Rome and hopes that the new stadium will be ready for the 2016-17 season. The design for a stadium with a 50,000-60,000 capacity is inspired by Rome's ancient Colosseum. The plan is to market the club to the millions of tourists who visit the city.

Roma has been plagued by outbursts of racism and violence from a small number of its diehard 'ultra' fans. The new stadium will use facial recognition technology to identify the fans behind the racist chanting.

The club failed to qualify for Europe this year, finishing sixth in Serie A. According to Deloitte's annual Football Finance Review, Roma dropped four places to 19th position among top European clubs in 2011-12, largely due to its failure to qualify for the Champions League. Commercial revenue did grow by 6 per cent to €36.8m.

The club, which has signed sponsorship deals with Nike and Disney, is following the experience of the Boston Celtics basketball team, which Mr Pallotta also owns, and is going ticketless. Fans will use mobile phones to access the stadium, enabling the club to build a database on its supporters. Previously, there was no fan management system and no use was made of social media.

The club scored a publicity coup when its new logo and a Boston Celtics shirt was presented to Pope Francis, a keen football fan, in St. Peter's Square.

Loss-making Roma was sold in 2011 by the indebted Sensi family for a rock bottom €70.3m to a US consortium led by Thomas DiBenedtto, president of the investment management firm Boston International Group, which took a 67 per cent stake. Last season Mr Pallotta increased his personal stake to one-third and became chairman. His Boston-based Raptor Group has a majority overall.