Beppe Marotta gave his thoughts on technology in football, the work of foreign club owners in Italy and the changing ways of engaging with fans.
Both Milanese clubs have had foreign owners for a decade or less now, with the Nerazzurri’s long-term owner Massimo Moratti selling to an Indonesian consortium led by Erick Thohir in 2013 and the Rossoneri being sold to Li Yonghong in 2017. Both clubs experienced years of instability before finally finding consistency over the last few years, although Inter’s financial situation is seemingly ever-precarious.
Speaking at the ‘Brave New Sport’ research event, Marotta first discussed the usage of technology in football, using examples of scouting and VAR.
“In football, it is clear that technology can give us a hand. Today we are dealing with VAR, which is not a technological activity that eradicates errors but limits them. There is goal line technology and then the part that concerns the competitive aspect, analysis, algorithms, match analysis.
“We as Inter have internally, if we consider the supply chain, about 20 match analysts. And then there is the scouting aspect, before you only went to watch the matches live, today there is an organisation that can be in a room and through tools can follow the event and look for future talent.
“Even a manager like me has the obligation to adapt, it’s the need to look for sustainability, digitally there are so many innovations.
“I’ll tell you a little anecdote, Umberto Saba described the goal from the goalkeeper who conceded it, today with your mobile phone you can see Napoli‘s goal even if you’re on your way to the stadium in Barcelona.”
Then discussed the differences between working with Italian owners at Juventus and foreign owners with Inter.
“If the question refers to the Juventus-Inter transition, Juve have an ownership that has lasted a hundred years and creates added values that are difficult to have elsewhere, such as belonging and planning.
“At Inter, three owners have changed in eight years, so there has been instability which has led to greater fatigue. But it is good that foreign ownership has arrived, because it has given sustainability to clubs like Inter and Milan.
“The Zhang family has put in a lot of effort by pouring €800m into Inter, which is no small thing. Then you have to know how to create a winning team, even behind the scenes with the management.”
He commented on the need to continue finding new ways to engage with fans.
“We have to understand what our fans-customers want, even if the fans may feel offended by this definition, as fans are seen as a religion. However, we have to be very attentive to the needs of the new generations.
“In the early 2000s you had two broadcasters and the event was the match. Today the match is not as attractive as it used to be, to the point that we now want to diversify our product with attention to our audience.
“It’s normal that social media and tokens have to be paid attention to, it’s a structural evolution of the company.
“Today the organisation chart of a club is two pages in the Panini album, new profiles are created in football clubs. Before there were former footballers, today we are an entertainment company and the profiles must be in the logic that the market demands.”
Finally, Marotta gave his thoughts on the future of football.
“Clearly technology will play an important role, but entertainment is a fundamental part of our business and so I would be for improving the level of entertainment offered, which in recent years, speaking of Italian football, has retreated.
“I hope that technology can help us to run our businesses better.”