Reform of the Lodo Petrucci felt in the Lega Pro

”Penalizzazioni da record: 125 punti!” read the headline in Saturday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport. In English – ”Record penalties: 125 points!” referring to the total number of points deducted from Lega Pro clubs this season, the majority of which are due to various financial misdemeanours, such as failing to pay salaries on time.
The record hit the news after the latest round of deductions saw a combined 20 points removed from 13 clubs. It means so far 34 out of a possible 85 Lega Pro clubs have been hit with a points deduction in 2010/11. Sangiovannese, with 12, have had the most points taken away for financial irregularities (Pomezia have had 16 points removed, but 15 of these were for false entry documentation when entering the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione last summer).
That should be it for this season with regards to subtracting points due to financial issues – any further missed deadlines with salaries will incur penalties applied next year. Nevertheless, it is a farcical situation this campaign and it can be traced back to 2004.
In May of that year Gianni Petrucci, President of CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee), introduced the ‘Lodo Petrucci’, a law that granted an immediate return to the football league to those clubs whose membership had been withdrawn due to financial problems. The caveat was they had to re-emerge as a ‘new’ organisation in a division below the one in which they were meant to participate, and there should be no links to the previous institution.
The law applied to clubs in Serie A, Serie B and Serie C1 (now renamed the Lega Pro Prima Divisione) and the intentions behind it were, on the whole, honest. But unfortunately it did not promote fiscal prudence – indeed if anything, it encouraged financial mismanagement by owners and club Presidents who were safe in the knowledge they were not really jeopardising a club’s existence if something went wrong with the cash flow.
As such, Presidents chased the dream of promotion by throwing money at the cause, and within two years of the law being passed the number of clubs that disappeared (mainly due to bankruptcy) and reappeared under a new name was into double figures. Members were making a mockery of the ‘lodo’, and Italian football in general, with their woeful attempts at implementing financial stability.
Realising what was happening, the FIGC had the law changed in May 2008. It now only applies to clubs in Serie A and Serie B, meaning those in the Lega Pro Prima Divisione can no longer take advantage.
The result is seasons of horrible management of the Prima Divisione/Serie C1 clubs at board level, conducted at a time when the Lodo Petrucci was applicable to them (the 2009/10 season was the first season in which it was not), are now coming home to roost in this year’s campaign. Whereas before Presidents could declare the club bankrupt and start again, they now have to carry on with balance sheets in the red.
With clubs making losses, they are unable to pay salaries, and they are being punished with points deductions each time a deadline is missed. The lower leagues of Italian football are in a miserable state financially – 20 teams had their Lega Pro memberships cancelled last year, sending them into the Italian equivalent of non-league football, and there is a danger of it occurring again this summer.
The Lega Pro recognises the danger, and is taking preventative steps. Director General Francesco Ghirelli announced a series of appointments with Lega Pro members that will give them advice on how to manage a club professionally and comply with financial regulations – anything to ensure a new record for points deductions is not set next season.

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