Italy’s top clubs face revenue threat under watchdog proposals

Italy’s top six clubs are faced with the threat of a reduction in their income from media rights after the country’s competition watchdog called on the government to alter the current revenue distribution model in the domestic game.

The watchdog has taken issue with the provision within Lega Serie A regulations that allocates a percentage of broadcast revenues based on clubs’ sporting performance and the size of their supporter base since 1946-47, when the modern league system was founded. The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato is instead seeking to introduce a system that would reward clubs for more recent success, rather than historic results.

Wednesday’s announcement came after clubs in November reached an agreement on the division of media rights revenue for the period spanning the 2012-13 to 2014-15 seasons, with Lega Serie A president Maurizio Beretta hailing the deal as “extraordinarily important” to the Italian game. Sixteen of the 20 clubs voted in favour of the proposal, which maintains the basic split of revenues along the guidelines introduced by the 2008 ‘Melandri Law’. However, Palermo and Chievo voted against the proposal while Fiorentina and Napoli abstained from the proceedings. The Melandri Law re-introduced collective selling to Italian football and prescribes that 40% of media rights revenue is divided equally, with 30% distributed according to a club’s supporter base and a further 30% based on a team’s sporting results.

The watchdog’s proposals would impact mainly on Italy’s big city clubs and those with the most Serie A titles since 1946-47. These clubs would include Juventus, AC Milan, Internazionale, AS Roma, SS Lazio and Napoli. The authority is calling for a system that focuses more on “sporting merit,” such as the final position of a club in the table. It believes the current system makes it difficult for smaller or developing clubs to compete. The watchdog also proposes that the redistribution of income should be overseen by a third party, rather than Lega Serie A or its member clubs. “The league, as it consists of members who represent individual teams, in fact, is not in the best position to dictate the rules of allocation of resources, given that certain companies might be in a position to influence such choices to their advantage,” the authority said.