Napoli president threatens to move Champions League games to Bari

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Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has threatened to move his side’s Champions League fixtures to Bari — and pay for 1,000 buses to transport fans there and back — in the latest twist in a dispute over renovations to the Stadio San Paolo.

New seats were due to be installed over the summer to bring the stadium in compliance with UEFA regulations, but work has yet to commence as an argument over who will pay for the work continues.

Napoli have not been able to sell any season tickets over uncertainty regarding which seats they could actually sell, and De Laurentiis threatened to play all of their home fixtures in Europe in Bari — almost 165 miles away.

“For me it’s a nightmare,” he told Il Corriere dello Sport when asked about the Stadio San Paolo. “It’s negative for me and it takes away a lot of prestige points on an international level to have a venue like that.

“It’s a shame. For this, I’m saying enough is enough — I’m not going to get involved in any more controversy, I will build my own stadium. That is that. We can’t carry on like this.”

De Laurentiis believes a new stadium could be ready within two years.

“Nobody can say anything if you pay out of your own pocket and you have land which is suitable for building a stadium on,” De Laurentiis said. “If these conditions are met, then things can accelerate very quickly.”

Napoli have nominated Palermo’s Stadio Renzo Barbera as an alternative for their UEFA club competition games, although they have repeatedly been given special dispensation to play their home fixtures at the San Paolo, as they have again this season.

Nevertheless, De Laurentiis said he has already spoken to UEFA about playing three hours away from Naples.

“In the meantime, I’ve asked UEFA for authorisation to play our Champions League games in Bari,” he said. “I would do that at the cost of paying for 1,000 buses out of my own pocket to enable Neapolitans to follow the games at the [Stadio] San Nicola.

“When I went there for the first time, I realised immediately that it’s an outstanding stadium. It’s been abandoned a little, but nothing compared to the San Paolo, which was built in 1959. It was designed by a certain Renzo Piano, unlike ours.

“Some players, when they saw it for the first time, wanted to leave Naples.”

De Laurentiis bought Bari earlier this summer after they were declared bankrupt and appointed his son Luigi as club president.