Never-say-die-spirit of Venezia F.C.


Gianluca Santaniello on Coliseum Europe Image: Gianluca Santaniello & MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The very-jovial-in-nature Gianluca Santaniello deserves a huge pat on his back along with his team for being partly responsible for scripting the success story of the Italian professional football club Venezia F.C. (Italy).

The club did reach the top-rung of Italian football Serie A in May 2021 but unfortunately, Venezia FC’s relegation from Serie A to Serie B was confirmed in May 2022.

Gianluca Santaniello joined Venezia F.C. in the year 2019 and as the Business Area Director of the club, and his role requires him to coordinate a young team of talents to drive the commercial and organizational development through innovative and financially sustainable solutions.

Prior to joining Venezia F.C., he had stints with multinational professional services company Accenture and KPMG.

Venezia F.C.

Venezia Football Club, commonly referred to as Venezia, is a professional football club based in Venice, Italy, that currently plays in Serie B. Originally founded as Venezia Foot Ball Club in 1907, the club have spent a large part of their history in Italy’s top two divisions.

Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo

The 11,150-capacity Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo is a multiuse stadium in Venice, Italy. It is the largest sports facility in Venice and the home ground of Venezia F.C. The stadium was first opened in 1913 and takes its name from World War I pilot Pier Luigi Penzo. It is the second-oldest continually used stadium in Italy.

Serie A

The Serie A, also called Serie A TIM for national sponsorship reasons, is a professional league competition for football clubs located at the top of the Italian football league system and the winner is awarded the Scudetto and the Coppa Campioni d’Italia.

In an exclusive with ‘Coliseum’, Gianluca Santaniello, Business Area Director, Venezia F.C., Italy, narrates how the club reached the top of the Italian football league – Serie A – and is starting everything from a scratch. Venezia F.C’s journey to the top has indeed been tumultuous with the club going into red five times.

Challenges galore

Gianluca Santaniello shot off, “The club has faced huge challenges – financials being a major challenge – yet they made it to the top surmounting all adversities.”

Watershed moment

May 27th, 2021 was a red-letter day for Venezia F.C. The club returned to Serie A after 20 long years – and the Serie A drought ended for Venezia.

The club’s digs – Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo – was not roaring with fans’ chants as supporters were not allowed inside the venue what with COVID-19 tightening its noose the world over.

Football is like religion in Italy and when the news of Venezia F.C. coming back into the Serie A fold spread like wild fire, hysterical fans dressed in orange, black and green gathered at Saint Mark’s Square and danced and sang their hearts out their happiness knowing no bounds.

Lady Luck Eludes

In May 2022, just a year after the team reaching Serie A, Venezia F.C. was again relegated to Serie B with Lady Luck refusing to smile on them.

Fairy Tale Stadium

The Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo is a fairy tale of a soccer stadium, where opposing players arrive not on a team bus but sleek wooden boats. The stadium is accessible by foot or by vaporetto – the public water bus.

The Club Behind the Kit: The Making of Venezia’s Miracle

There’s much more to Venezia F.C. than just a viral kit release. Its return to Serie A and approach as it aims to stay there are reflective of the very ideals that make up its City.

As Santaniello stated, “This is the story of a club’s progress. Venezia returned to Serie A after 20-year absence in May 2021. I joined Venezia as a Consultant in 2019. The club was almost on the brink of bankruptcy and this was for the fifth time in the last 20 years. So, the business environment was not good since Venice is not a football City. We are trying to do a kind of publicity blitzkrieg so that people come to know more about Venezia F.C. and take interest in the game of football per se.”


Unlike rest of Italy, the people of Venice are not exactly passionate about football. It is burgeoning more with heritage and cultural status and it is quite a challenge for Santaniello and his team to be able to lure the people to the stadium for watching a game of football in a City which is full of architectural marvels.

Bleeding White

Venezia F.C. is a tale of bankruptcy, relegation, mismanagement, and then finally promotion in 2021. The club has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy.

Founded in 1905, the Winged Lions have spent much of their history flitting between Italy’s top two soccer divisions just like a pendulum. But disaster struck around the term of the millennium as the club became desperately short of funds. At the end of the 2004-2005 Serie B seasons, Venezia was relegated and declared bankrupt.

Niederauer to the rescue

The former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, Duncan Niederauer, took over the reins of the club in the capacity of Chairman in 2019 and as Santaniello puts in, “After 20 years, Venezia F.C. got a chance again to play in Serie A.”

Niederauer has his task cut out – proper budgets, balancing success on the pitch with fiscal responsibility.

Mission Statement

Venezia F.C. endeavors are marked by four cornerstones:

  • Sporting Excellence;
  • Preserve Venice;
  • Social Responsibility; and
  • Community Development.


Young Blood

Said Santaniello, “With the new Chairman, we have a new and young management. We started a defined vision of the club. We well realize the fact that football is the business of our club but at the same time we are the Ambassador of our City Venice. We have got stronger commitment towards social responsibility and community development.”

Sporting Excellence and Integrity

He added, “Venezia F.C. is a football club and take initiatives accordingly. The club continually strives to represent Venice on the Serie A stage, competing with emphasis on youth development and best practices in sport, while remaining committed to principles of sporting integrity.”

Venice is a City steeped in culture through renaissance art and opera and people are not “crazy” about football in this City as it has a lot to offer in the form of classical heritage. Against such a scenario, Venezia F.C. is putting its best foot forward to lure people towards the game of soccer.

Preserve Venice

He affirmed, “Venice is one of the most beautiful Cities in the world and is a City that really needs to be protected. We know that we have to stand up for our City and a great part of the revenue goes to save Venice and its rich and pristine heritage.”

Venezia FC is committed to leveraging its position in the world’s most popular sport to serve as a global Ambassador of Venice with a specific focus on:

  • Advocating for the preservation and celebration of Venice’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage;
  • Advocating for the safeguarding of Venice’s natural environment and the redevelopment of Venice as a living City; and
  • Advocating for sustainable tourism that is in harmony with Venice’s environment and society.


Social Responsibility

Remarked Santaniello, “We are in a business environment that is not so advanced and we benchmark everything and when we start a project we benchmark the best practice around the world and our club will have to learn to be in the sports community. We are committed to leveraging football’s unique cultural power to serve as a vehicle for social progress, advocating for inclusion and harmony within our community and equality and justice within the society.”

Community Development

He affirmed that the Serie B club is committed to contributing to social cohesion and quality of life in and around Venice, especially promoting education, health and wellness in the lives of young people.

Club Model

A methodology of progressive practices and sustainable growth:

  • Brand development;
  • Talent identification;
  • Business development; and
  • Talent development.

He continued, “At the end of the day, we are a business and we have to monetize it. We are a football club and we are in the business of talent which is why Talent Identification is one of our pillars.”

Santaniello informed that with the New York Stock Exchange top gun calling the shots of the club, “We are trying to implement multiple systems in our club. It was not easy in the beginning. We are building the club from a scratch.”

Men’s Team

  • To remain in Serie A following 2020-2021 promotion (but have got relegated to Serie B in May 2022);
  • A global player roster representing over 12 nations; and
  • First year in Serie A since 2001-2002.

Venezia F.C. enjoys a global player roster.

Global Player Roster

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • France
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Suriname
  • USA
  • Wales (UK)

He averred, “We are trying to position ourselves at the international level and this count not just for the male team.”

Women’s Team

  • To reach Serie A from Serie C;
  • An international roster; and
  • Dedicated youth team.

Santaniello informed, “We have also invested in our women’s team and for our Under-19 team we had an international roster and scouting for talents in less competitive areas. We provide education of the highest level for our guys and this is one of the strategies that we adopt to win them over.”

Youth Methodology


Increasing investment in youth development

This is one of the most important investments among all the investments that the club has done in the last 20 months. These investments are long-term investments.

Brand Development


Fashion First

The model who has enchanted the fans with her free-flowing hair and blue eyes, donning the exquisite colors of Venezia F.C., is Theopisti Pourliotopoulou. Her management company, Agencia models in Greece struck a deal with Venezia F.C. which brought her to the shores of Venice, and since the release of the kit which shows her wearing the colors of Venezia, the response of the fans has been drooling, to say the least.

Though the Italian club has got relegated from Serie A and has no option but to play in Serie B, but their spirits are still soaring, something to write home about.

Fashion kit

The club has put out a banger kit that oozes class and captures one’s attention. The jersey comprises deep black shirt and a thin orange and green taping that runs along the sleeves and down the sides. A single button collar with burning gold embellishments accentuates the club crest and the new ‘Citta Di Venezia’ City script makes the kit look sharper than any kit out there in the market.

Business Development

He said that one of the main goals was to “monetize the club”.

Serie A Global Reach

  • 375 million+ global fan base;
  • 342 million+ international fan base; and
  • 33 million Italian fan base.

Enthused Santaniello, “For a small club like ours it was an accelerator to reach Serie A.”

Future Goals


Workstream and Agile Project Management Approach

  • Merchandizing;
  • Venue business;
  • Sponsorships; and
  • Digital and data.

He added, “We are a very young team so we are merchandizing and 80 to 90 percent of our items get sold. The United States and Germany are important markets for us and we are trying to develop independent connections and position ourselves better by selling fashionable stuffs. As far as the venue business is concerned, we are chalking out plans to operate the venue for the greater part of the year.”

Gianluca Santaniello concluded by stating, “We are bending over backwards to give a new life to our club that more or less did not exist in the past.”

Santaniello Strategies:

  • Positioning sponsorship strategy in line with the mission and mission statement mentioned above;
  • Everything starts with a benchmark; and
  • Everything starts with a feasibility analysis.



It has indeed been a roller-coaster ride for Venezia F.C. all along. The club has survived bankruptcy, relegation and though they reached the top-of-the-heap in 2021 but this year again they have gone back to Serie B. But, the spirit of the club is always soaring and they are SURVIVORS indeed!

After all, they come from one of the most beautiful Cities in the world – Venice – and their home venue is a remarkable piece of sporting architecture surrounded by water on three of its four sides, and stands as a perfect embodiment of Venice.

And it is due to the diligence of people like Gianluca Santaniello and Duncan L. Niederauer who work through the sweat of their brows for the club, that it is a matter of time before Venezia F.C. will be back to Serie A once more. And, of course, the club’s never-say-die-spirit. Take a bow, Venezia F.C., take a bow!

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