Football: Adapt or die, Indonesian tycoon tells Serie A league chiefs

Football: Adapt or die, Indonesian tycoon tells Serie A league chiefs
Erick Thohir, president of Internazionale FC speaks during the launching of a digital product for football club Inter Milan in Jakarta on September 11, 2014.

MILAN - Inter Milan owner Erick Thohir has called on Serie A bosses to think globally or risk seeing the beleaguered Italian top flight dropping further down football's pecking order.

"Italy won't be number two, not three, or even fourth. We will be ninth and lose ground to countries like Portugal and Holland," Thohir said in an interview with cnn.com published Thursday.

Thohir, who bought a 70 per cent stake in Inter a year ago, is primarily concerned with seeing the Nerazzurri - Italy's last Champions League winners, in 2010 - become competitive again on the domestic front after failing to qualify for the Champions League three years in a row.

But the Indonesian tycoon has also fired a warning shot to league officials: adapt and change, or lose fans - and therefore potential marketing revenue - to rival leagues.

Italian football suffered a huge blow with the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal which notably saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and lose their league titles from 2005 and 2006.

And it has been in decline ever since as the country continues to reel from a financial crisis that has prompted hundreds of thousands of Italians to leave in search of work elsewhere.

The lucrative salaries once on offer at Inter, AC Milan and Juventus - except to the relatively few - are now a thing of the past, meaning the game's biggest stars have opted to chase more lucrative contracts elsewhere.

The impact had been felt on the field where Inter's run in 2010 is the only time since AC Milan were European champions in 2007 that an Italian side has gone beyond the Champions League quarter-finals.

Italy has also been hit with a steady stream of match-fixing scandals with Calcioscommesse following on from Calciopoli and Thohir believes another such would kill Italian football.

And he called on fellow club presidents to take a more global approach to promoting the Italian game in key markets such as Asia.

That would mean taking a leaf out of the English Premier League book and adapting kick-off times to Asian audiences.

"Serie A has to more aggressive. I specifically tell people if we do another Calciopoli, Serie A will be dead," he said.

"It's important to look at the world globally and not just Italy. The (other club) presidents are open-minded when we talk. A lot of things have to be done." Thohir added: "A lot of fans in different regions want to see the real live game rather than on their television or computer." The marketing revenue from Italy's biggest clubs trail well behind those generated by their English Premier League counterparts. According to Forbes, the 2014-2015 turnover forecast for Inter is $240 million - less than half of Manchester United's current $551 million revenue.

Thohir added: "The English Premier League has become bigger and bigger, but Serie A can become the second league in the world.

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