Calcio with Barbara Berlusconi

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesBarbara Berlusconi, with her father Silvio (middle second row) at a 2012 match, is cautioning Milan supporters the club will not be spending freely

In a time of austerity, cost-cutting and utter panic as Silvio Berlusconi launches his political comeback, it is the Milan chief's 28-year old daughter who has also now shared the harsh reality the club faces and delivered a frank and sensible assessment.

Barbara Berlusconi, a club director, spoke with L'Equipe this week regarding the current financial situation and the model which she envisages will help lead the club to a brighter future.

Long gone are the days of lavish spending, replaced by the need to sell key players in order to reduce the wage bill thus reducing debts and ultimately balancing the books. Berlusconi [BB] has maintaine the club is committed to its new financially prudent era, and has explained the plan for the future.

"I understand the fans but we have to explain to them that we have followed the only possible path, and we have grown up thanks to an excellent business model. Football clubs are businesses like any other, and they cannot go on building up debt. The club has to be able to survive on its own resources.”

BB went on to identify Bayern Munich as the model to follow, stating the Bundesliga giants have “autonomy, excellent revenue, make a profit and play at the highest level every season." While reminding supporters she is aware that Milan are the club with most titles of any in the world, the figures clearly back her statement.

Bayern reportedly produced an 11.1m-euro profit during the 2011-12 financial year, with a new revenue landmark of 332.2m euros. It is unheard of not only in Milan, but in Italy as a whole, with very few clubs operating at a profit.

Buying big name players is certainly an attractive strategy to many fans, but perhaps this more conservative and long-term plan can produce the same end result while allowing the club to remain financially healthy. From a youth system that has churned out the likes of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, more should be expected.

Mattia De Sciglio appears to be the next success story, while Stephan El Shaarawy, albeit a purchase rather than a ‘home-grown’ player in the purest sense, is another example of why youth is the answer.

"The idea to cut costs is the only road to take. Football doesn’t like change, but there are times when decisions need to be made. We want our youngsters to grow and we want to construct a side around them.”

However, naturally there are risks that come with such a strategy. A balance must be found. While it’s commendable to promote youth and save money on transfers, this has a knock-on effect on income. Milan’s gate is reportedly down by 20 percent from last season, undoubtedly a consequence of the summer transfer market and the dismal start to the campaign.

In a wider sense, that is reflective of the Italian game in general. La Repubblica recently reported the average Serie A attendance is 20,732 with capacity of grounds used at 48.1 percent. Again, using the Bundesliga as a model, their average attendance stands at 42,257 with 86.1 percent of capacity filled.

“The fans are the most important clients. The players have to understand for which club they’re playing as the images and values of the club are also part of the global strategy.”

While most are in agreement over the strategy, more must still be done on a commercial level to boost Milan’s financial position. A new stadium looks unlikely, but there has been talk of outside investment. However, the Berlusconi family is adamant they will not sell a controlling stake in the club. Perhaps acting on Signora Berlusconi’s vision for the club there might be no need to, and the club have begun to take steps in the right direction.

Should Milan rely on youth, either through their own system or outside, or is heavy (and perhaps damaging) investment and the players that come with it more important?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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