President Steven Zhang's Speech at the Shareholders' Meeting

PRESIDENT STEVEN ZHANG'S SPEECH AT THE SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING

"The foundations have been laid for the Club to have a successful future"

Good morning everyone. Thank you for being here at our Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. 

It was part of a process that began with the acquisition of the club by Suning in June 2016 with the aim of taking Inter to the top of the sports industry and building a solid club founded on the principle of financially sustainable growth.

We have come a long way.  And today, we are standing at a completely different situation than 3 years ago. With efforts of all, the club changed its fate and destiny. 

The new Inter is international, brave, immersive, innovative and performing on the pitch. We will win, inspire and entertain the hearts of millions.  

The global football landscape is currently going through a period of profound revolution and evolution. The industry is transforming to become more innovative and global.

Success on the pitch is more and more closely linked to the development of clubs’ daily activities. And our work is not only about the 90mins on TV anymore. 

European clubs have become modern entertainment companies which compete on a global scale.

In order to ensure organic growth, the first task is to engage with an increasingly diverse public that is no longer limited to football fans alone. It’s vital that we attract the youngest generations.

Generation Z consumes entertainment in a completely different way to the traditional model. And that’s why it’s vital that we dominate digital channels, create innovative content with a style that taps into the tastes of young people, devise geo-localised formats to engage with different cultures and – most important of all – focus on what happens outside of the 90 minutes of a football match. 

It’s also crucial that we focus on global markets and increase brand awareness of Italian and European football in order to win new fans and identify new commercial partners. Europe is now a saturated market. But in the US, in Asia, and particularly in China, the potential is huge.

Inter is developing a growth strategy based on this context.

During the last year, we have made important changes that have enabled us to achieve excellent results both on and off the pitch. However, most important of all, I believe this has been a year in which we’ve laid the foundations necessary for us to build a great future, as the Club has more power and obtained a higher position in the sports landscape as the company becomes stronger

In order to implement our vision and strategy, we decided to take the strategic step of reorganising the governance of the club into two different areas which nonetheless work closely with one another:

The Corporate Area, led by CEO Alessandro Antonello.

And the Sport Area, led by Giuseppe Marotta, who joined as CEO last season.

As part of the reorganisation, a number of other senior figures joined the club, creating a senior management structure which has a deep connection to Italy as well as including internationally renowned figures.

In the 3 years since Suning took over the Club, the number of employees has seen a significant increase and development of new business areas: from 150 in 2016 to around 300, almost 700 including sports contracts. Our Club is made up of 60% Millennials (average age is 38) , besides supporting the domestic job force , an important share of employees are international (China, Brasil, UK, Netherlands, Albania, Spain, Argentina). 

Being successful on the pitch is the objective that Inter must always work towards – for the club itself and for our extraordinary fans.

The results achieved last season consolidated Inter’s progress towards the return to the elite of European football.

We returned to Europe’s biggest club competition, the Champions League, and had an excellent group-stage campaign.

After eight years away, we were able to give our amazing fans the thrill of big European nights once again, with the games against Tottenham, Barcelona – as we did last week with Borussia Dortmund.

In Serie A, we achieved our season objective by qualifying for the Champions League for the second time in a row, an achievement that allows us to consolidate our position among the top clubs in Europe. 

Our Youth Sector – which we are proud to say is one of the best of its kind in world football – generated more success, with the U17 side winning the Serie A and Italian Super Cup titles. The Youth Sector also identified a number of exciting new talents who we believe are capable of becoming important players for Inter in the future. Meanwhile giving more contribution for Italian national team. 

Last season also saw Inter’s official debut in the world of women’s football. We dominated our first season in Serie B and are now competing at the highest level, in Serie A. Our aim is for the women’s team to become a top side soon – as every Inter team should be.

In addition, we took the decision to bring in Antonio Conte, one of the best and most successful in the world, who has passionately and proudly bought into our project. The work we do with Conte will further strengthen our progress to winning ways, in accordance with our sports development plan.

In the summer, the club invested heavily in the transfer market to complete important transfers and create a strong, united and solid group composed of a mix of established top players and young talent.

The return to the Sports Area of Gabriele Oriali, who was fondly welcomed back by all Inter fans, is already proving crucial in the success of our project.

Inter’s performances on the pitch must continue to improve based on solid foundations we build in the past couple years. Meanwhile, We must be patient and  work diligently to create a project that yields long-term prosperity.  Desperate chasing for short term success or immediate result is not we are working for.  

In the 2018/19 season, we achieved the highest revenue in the history of Inter (consolidated revenue of €417 million) with a 20% increase on the previous year. This achievement is confirmation of the extraordinary growth that has seen Inter’s revenue almost more than double since the club was acquired by Suning, underlining the success of our business plan.

We are well aware that there remains a substantial gap between Inter and the leading clubs in Europe, but we are moving in the right direction. For example, our sponsorship revenue has increased 9% on the previous year and now stands at nearly €140 million.

Our efforts to increase sponsorship revenue will see us seal new global agreements in the many profitable market sectors.  

With diligent work of all staffs in the club, I am truly proud to remind you all that last season saw Inter definitively exit the Settlement Agreement signed with UEFA in May 2015.

This shows the solidity and growth of our club and illustrates how our financial position has been strengthened in recent years, supported by an approach that fully complied with the rules imposed.

It’s important that the club continues to adhere to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and maintains the diligent financial management strategy that has been a feature of recent financial years.

The club’s efforts as part of its process of consolidation also include the renovation of club infrastructure.

Last season, we initiated redevelopment work at the Suning Training Centre, which will feature a new hotel, club house, media centre and cutting-edge training pitches, providing the Sports Area with a modern training ground on a par with those of the world’s top clubs.

And in June, we inaugurated the innovative 1908 Inter HQ, the club’s modern headquarters in the centre of the tech and design district of Porta Nuova.  The New HQ will provide better working space for our employees to become more efficient and work with an innovative mindset

Furthermore, as you know, we have worked with AC Milan to submit the Technical and Economic Feasibility Project for the new San Siro stadium and surrounding multi-purpose complex to the Municipality of Milan. With completion of this project, it would add new energy to both clubs and benefit the city. 

Our fans have become more supportive than ever. 

Last season, they set a new Serie A record for overall attendance for the fourth consecutive year. Our average attendance was nearly 62,000 spectators per game, with total attendance reaching one million, one hundred thousand spectators. That total was the fifth-highest in Europe, ahead of the likes of Real Madrid and Arsenal.

Inter’s appeal continues to grow, both at San Siro and all over the world. Last season (according to Brand Finance 19 / FTBL 50), our brand moved up to 13th place with an estimated value of €465 million. That equates to 138% growth in the last two years.  

Our global fanbase numbers around 385 million fans, making us the 11th-biggest club in the world. In China alone, we have 120 million fans, an increase of nearly 30% on last season.

Our growth is even more significant across the digital channels. The creation of innovative digital content with an increasing focus on geo-localisation saw us increase our follower count by 8 million or 54% compared to the previous season. Now, we're up to 28 million followers. Inter are the Italian club with the most social media followers in China bar none.

The club’s focus on engaging and interacting with new generations and its efforts to position Inter as a global brand with close links to the city of Milan and Italian style resulted in the launch of our new brand campaign, Not For Everyone, which encapsulates our bold attitude and brave nature. The multimedia campaign was a great success in bringing us closer to younger generations and a global target audience.

Finally, during last season, we reiterated our clear stance against all forms of racism and discrimination and launched our new corporate social responsibility campaign BUU – Brothers Universally United, underlining the values that have been synonymous with Inter for 111 years. 

The start of this season has been exciting, be patient, we have no doubt that we have laid the foundations upon which we can build a successful future for our club and to win the hearts of everyone.

 

Forza Inter Sempre. 

 


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