One organisation conspicuous by their absence in this saga is the FIGC (Italian FA). Their only involvement in this whole process was to mediate between the Serie A clubs (who had decided to break away) and their Serie B rivals as to the amount of money that should be passed down from the large collective TV deal due to start in 2010/11. They could not dictate, but merely make sensible suggestions and attempt to steer a resolution towards the right outcome for Italian football.
Naturally, questions will be asked as to why they did not step in and put a stop to the breakaway plan altogether and the answer is, quite simply, FIFA. The overlords of football have very specific rules in place against clubs playing in unsanctioned leagues. If the FIGC refused to sanction the league, they would be left in a situation whereby the national team risked being banned from international competition. Bearing in mind this decision would have been taken at some point last year, it could have seen Italy refused entry to the World Cup (which may not have been a bad thing judging by their performances in South Africa).
With the FIGC’s hands tied, and understandably unwilling to call the bluff of the 20 clubs involved, the split went ahead, meaning there will be separate bodies governing the two leagues, much like the Premier League and Football League in England. Maurizio Beretta, who was President of the now defunct Lega Calcio for the majority of last season, was appointed as the head of the new Lega Serie A, who will run the top division in Italy. His role will be to ensure the clubs enjoy a successful, smooth transition from Lega Calcio members to independence. The Lega Serie B, who were only established on July 7, 2010, will govern the second tier of Italian football with Luca Ferrari as its President. The names of the two leagues will not change – Serie A is still the name of the top division, although Serie B will now be called ‘Serie bwin’ for the next two years as a result of a sponsorship deal with the online betting company bwin. The two logos, however, have been redesigned, with both looking suitably eye-catching.
It is interesting to note just how much those Serie A teams outside of the established powers stand to gain. The new two-year €1.149bn deal with Sky Italia, starting in August 2010, works out at €574.5m per season (for anyone wanting a quick comparison, the Premier League deal is worth €1.934bn over three years, or €644.6m per season). The current plan is for 40% of this to be distributed evenly amongst the 20 Serie A members, meaning each club will receive a minimum of around €11.5m. Considering Chievo’s individual TV deal for last season did not exceed the €5m mark, that figure means their revenue streams from this source will more than double, and that is if they get relegated. 30% will act as prize money for league position, so a good final standing for Chievo will see that basic €11.5m rise, although no information has been released as to how the Lega Serie A plan to proportion this block of cash to each position. The final 30% will be based on fan following, but quite how they intend to measure this remains to be seen, as any method needs to ensure clubs with small stadia are not penalised.
Going forward, it sounds like a very exciting future lies ahead for Calcio, but there are many pitfalls to the path they have chosen to go down. Greed and a lust for money has started to engulf the Premier League to the extent where you have outlandish proposals put forward for a 39th game held abroad in order to milk even more money from the overseas market. The single-minded attitude has yielded some short-term success in Europe (although not at international level), but questions over long-term sustainability. Beretta and company would do well to learn from the experience of their English counterparts.