Juventus hopes for new era with stadium opening

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MILAN (Reuters) -- Juventus began what they hope will be a brighter era for the club by opening a new stadium with a lavish ceremony and a friendly against an English third division side on Thursday.

The event in Turin was given great significance in Italy as Juventus will be the only Serie A to play in their own stadium, a situation which holds clubs back financially.

Notts County, who came away with a 1-1 draw, were chosen as the opponents for sentimental reasons as their black-and-white striped shirts inspired Juventus' choice of strip when the club decided to replace their faded pink shirts in 1903.

"We have completed this project at a very difficult and delicate moment, in terms of the club's sporting history and the macroeconomic context," club president Andrea Agnelli told reporters before the opening ceremony.

"This is a demonstration of our will to undertake an investment which can change our club and the ownership culture in Italy. This for us is a matter of great pride."

Italian FA president Giancarlo Abete added: "What is lacking in Italian football is that the clubs have their own stadiums."

The stadium, built in two years on the site of the former Stadio delle Alpi, has a capacity of 41,000 with the front seats only seven metres from the pitch in order to provide an intimidating atmosphere.

It is a far cry from the previous stadium, which was often half full and where players complained that the crowd's distance from the pitch created a subdued atmosphere.

Juventus slumped after the Calciopoli corruption scandal when the club was stripped of the 2004/05 and 2005/06 titles and demoted to Serie B.

Although they won promotion at the first attempt, they have not added to their total of 27 Serie A titles since then and finished seventh in each of the last two seasons.

"It is a cultural revolution, and a revolution of the football world. It's an important step for us," said midfielder Alessandro Del Piero who has spent his whole career with the club, before the game. "I really hope this will now become the norm for Italian football and its stadiums."

In the last 25 years, Juventus have played at the old Comunale stadium and the unpopular Stadio delle Alpi, site of the current arena. Since 2006, they have played at the Olimpico, the re-modelled version of the Comunale.

The first competitive game will be at home to Parma on Sunday in Serie A.