The club of Aesthetics. How Venezia is making its comeback to Serie A led by Americans
Americans have created the most aesthetically pleasing club in Italian football.
Venice might be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, known for its endless canals and rich history. Still, it is a part of Italy. And Italy is football. In the case of the Venezia Football Club, being a part of a city with such an enormous cultural heritage has been a challenging experience throughout the decades. The May of 2021 might have been another turning point in a 114-year long journey of I Leoni ałati.
Venezia has been a relatively humble club on the Italian football scene, winning only one major trophy in 1941, led by the legendary Italian striker Valentino Mazzola. He is the biggest name to wear the Venezia kit. Outside of the 1941 Coppa Italia title, the beautiful city of Venice never was a desirable destination for renowned football stars. It is due to the fact that Venezia will play in Serie A only for the 14th time in its history. The majority of the time, The Winged Lions have been struggling in Serie B, having regular financial struggles and living through several bankruptcies.
Everything has changed for good because of the American investors, led by Joe Tacopina, who began to work with Venice in 2015. "We will become the giants of Italian football. I am sure about that," Tacopina told his ambitions in 2015. His vision was to build an international club that will have a great fan base worldwide. Considering the great numbers of tourists Venice received in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic started, such ambitions made sense. However, the local public was not impressed at all by Tacopina's inspirational speeches. Venezia has seen plenty of struggle to make its supporters cautious of all the newcomers and their promises.
Tacopina left the Venezia in 2020, and American company VFC Newco became the sole owner of the club. The plans of the club's board haven't changed, and the Serie A comeback eventually did happen as Tacopina predicted it in 2015: "You are asking the wrong question here. It is not about "if we will make it to the Serie A". It is "when we will make it happen". This is simply a matter of time". He did not have a long run in Venice, but the impact he left on the club has been major.
With the arrival of American investors, Venezia has become one of the most aesthetically pleasing clubs in Europe. The image now is something the club takes very seriously, attracting talented designers and photographers to caption the local culture and heritage of Venice in a mix with its football club. A great example of that is the former New York City defender Ethan White, who retired in 2017 to pursue a career in photography. He has been capturing stunning photographs of Venice and its local football culture and sharing them on his Instagram @ethanwhite.
Despite being a Serie B club at the time, Venezia became one of the Nike clubs that get the premium package - a custom design instead of based on a specific template. 2020/21 season kits were superb, featuring the traditional colors - orange, black and green. Instead of putting a sponsor's logo on the chest, Nike added the name of the club on a display. There have been also some beautiful releases of the retro-styled limited editions of the Venezia kit.
The 2021/22 season will see Venezia's return to Serie A alongside new kit supplier - Italian brand Kappa. The first season of their partnership will see four different kits. Considering that Kappa has often been presenting well-designed retro-style kits, we could see another hit of sales by the Italians.
The main challenge for Venezia in terms of infrastructure has been the stadium. Italy has always been criticized for their almost ancient stadiums that are crying for renovation. The home of Venezia - Stadio Pierluigi Penzo is one of the oldest stadiums in Italy (it was first opened in 1913), and it has a relatively small capacity of 7400. It carries the World War I pilot Pierluigi Penzo and is located on one of the many islands of Venice. Those who will visit Venezia's Serie A games in the 2021/22 season will have to enjoy a ride with a boat as there are no other options for how to reach the stadium. It might have its old-fashioned charm, but the club's board is keen to build a new stadium with a larger capacity of 18 000 spectators. If the ambitions to attract the international fan base will not fade away after Venezia's return to Serie A, there will be a need for a modern stadium that can hold more spectators.
If Venezia can keep up their performances on the pitch on the same level as their rebranding, led by New York City's Fly Nowhere team, the future will be bright. Still, it has yet to prove itself as a serious project that will not experience the faith of its predecessors. The image matters a lot. Maybe more than ever, considering the fact that the club faced three bankruptcies in 20 years.
The Italian side has shown great creativity and efforts to present themselves to a broader audience with their North American management approach. Venezia may not be a household name yet, but the idea to work on the eye-catching aesthetics is the right one to stick with. Results on the pitch will vary, and outside a potentially exciting Coppa Italia run, Venezia is unlikely to be an inspiring underdog story. They aren't Leicester City, but there is definitely a potential to turn Venice into one of the centers of European football culture.