Following both Milan clubs’ triumphs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the San Siro’s long-standing residents could be performing their final act in battle when they meet in the semi-finals this month amid the planned abandonment of the stadium.
The reports surrounding the planned demolition of the Giuseppe Meazza are undetermined and football fans around the globe are unsure if this season will be the stadium’s last.
The San Siro is a stadium every football fanatic must tick off their stadium bucket list- but developments in Milan suggest time is running out for people to experience a matchday or even a tour at the famous ground.
CBS News reported at the inception of this ordeal that AC Milan and Inter had agreed to demolish the San Siro and build their new stadium over it. This was announced and approved in 2021 but a lot has changed since then.
AC Milan were sold to RedBird Capital Partners, who wish to discuss options about keeping the stadium. It’s no surprise either as their founder, Gerry Cardinale, has a significant stake in On Location, which last year became the official hospitality provider for the International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Cardinale believes that the San Siro can still be utilised for economic gain and showed this by announcing that last year the stadium will host the opening ceremony of the 2026 Winter Olympics that will take place in Italy.
Inter are currently undergoing a financial crisis- as La Repubblica reported in January of this year that the Nerazzurri have to bring in around €500 million over the next five years in order to avoid serious financial collapse.
Tensions within the city have also confused proceedings.
According to Architect’s Journal, an injunction is currently in the works to block the removal of the ground- with environmental groups and figures such as Vittorio Sgarbi (Italy’s undersecretary for culture) deeming the project damaging to Italian football heritage.
They are confident that an injunction will be introduced to block the removal of the stadium that has been scheduled to take place in 2024.
The counter to this has come from Giuseppe Bonomi- the project manager for the new stadium named ‘The Cathedral’. He believes that the injunction is still undecided and that complications with planning permission mean the new ground must be built over the rubble of the San Siro.
Despite both sides’ stances on the existence of the stadium, Calcio Finanza (Italy’s leading financial news website) has reported that the final decision rests with the city’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala.
His views on the stadium do not bode well for Sgarbi and the environmentalists as he told Football Italia back in February that “nobody wants the old San Siro anymore.”
The overall view on the future of the stadium is very much a progressive one and there is just a small fraction of groups and individuals who wish to preserve the San Siro and keep it as a landmark.
Maintaining the existence of the San Siro does have its benefits. Stadium tours and one-off events- such as the opening ceremony of the Olympics- could still produce a healthy revenue stream for the city; but for how long?
As emotional as the removal may sound, the silk-stocking executives seem to think that the San Siro and its ageing infrastructure has outlived its financial use.
If the operation to topple the ground prevails, the construction of the new stadium is hoped to be ready for the 2027/28 campaign.
It is also still undecided if both clubs will share the new stadium, which is reportedly worth over €1 billion.
The San Siro is owned by The City Council of Milan and both clubs have been renting the stadium- with AC Milan playing at the iconic ground since its outset in 1925 and having shared it with Inter since 1947.
This is one of the main reasons both clubs are leaving the San Siro. Their revenue is massively affected by renting the San Siro every year and it also means they cannot properly contribute to improving the infrastructure of it.
Juventus, Udinese and Atalanta are the only teams in Italy’s top flight who own their respective stadiums and both Milan clubs are certainly envious of the money they generate from this.
Inter Milan’s president Steve Zhang has already mapped out a plan B should the procedure to build over the San Siro collapse, with reports in the Daily Mail suggesting Zhang has already agreed on a deal to build a separate stadium on land elsewhere.
The essence of money and heritage have intertwined throughout the process of dealing with the future of the San Siro.
Some see it as a traditional value to keep the clubs playing in the same stadium but the profits and attraction of building a separate ground is appealing to the owners.
As someone who has had the pleasure of attending the ground for a game in January- AC Milan’s 2-2 draw with Roma- the decision to remove the stadium bothers me.
The football on the pitch was largely irrelevant to me as my attention was latched onto the imposing cylindrical towers that are positioned around the ground. The unique experience of winding up to reach your seat just adds to the fascination. The beauty and longevity of the architecture on a building that is nearly 100 years old is remarkable.
The San Siro is more than just a venue for football; it’s an artefact that should be treasured for eternity. However, the harsh reality is the San Siro will more than likely fall just like a lot of other iconic grounds before it.
The Old Wembley and White Hart Lane have an archive of memories attached to the grounds but were demolished and built over in favour of ‘super stadiums.’
Even when clubs and councils decide to build elsewhere, stadiums eventually outlive their purpose.
The iconic Vicente Calderon which was home to Atletico Madrid from 1966 to 2017 was demolished in place of a park. West Ham’s Boleyn Ground is now a housing development area called Upton Gardens and Sparta Prague’s famous Starahov Stadium is used for concerts.
From 1925 to 2023, both Inter and AC have won 38 Scudettos, 10 Champions League’s, 13 Coppa Italia’s and 14 Suppercoppa’s between them.
The San Siro has hosted some memorable ties- such as the infamous abandonment of the 2005 Milan derby where Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa stood in disbelief at the sight of the carnage and, in doing so, created one of the most iconic photographs in football history.
Even Madonna and The Beatles have ventured out onto the treasured turf.
But the 97-year-old San Siro is reaching the end of its tenure and the financial agenda of the footballing world does not have room to accommodate it any longer.