A new Serie A season is on the horizon and a new television deal is on the table for Italy’s top flight protagonists. As Serie A becomes its own individual entity, bosses at the top level have thrashed out a brand new deal with the peninsula’s main broadcasters. After years of negotiating individual deals to swell the club coffers, this season will see Serie A reverting to the English Premiership’s model of collective broadcasting rights for the new campaign. One of the main reasons for the breakaway in the first place was the opportunity to get increased television revenue and with a combined kitty of £679m, it seems Italy’s fat cats have got their wish. For the four heavyweights in the peninsula’s top flight, the revenue streams will not make that much difference to the balance sheets.
Inter’s income for the coming season has increased from £66.6m in 2009/10 to £67/70m for season 2010/11 – their city rivals at Milan can expect pretty much the same. Over in Turin, Juventus will see an increase from £67m in 2009/10 to £73/75m for 2010/11. In the capital, Roma, anxiously awaiting offers from a prospective new owner, will see their revenue swell from £43m for season 2009/10, to £48/52m for the forthcoming campaign. The big winners of course are the newly promoted sides, as Cesena, Brescia and Lecce look forward to a major windfall in their quest to survive in the top flight. Each club can expect to earn £15/18m for the new season, money that is vital to their survival aspirations. Sampdoria, having finished fourth last season will see their revenue streams swelled to the tune of £10/14m for the new season and will look to earn in excess of £29/32m. On top of this, should the Blucerchiati make it into the group stages of the Champions League, the Euro signs will be flashing in the eyes of President Riccardo Garrone.
But not all is as rosy as it seems, further investigation into the new deal throws up a couple of red herrings. Firstly, each side from the top flight must give up £2m of its earnings to supplement income for clubs in Italy’s second tier. Serie Bwin as it will be called from next season is in financial meltdown, and any contributions will be gratefully received. With new branding and a new league president, Andrea Abodi, installed to try to rescue the whole situation, it is fortunate that the division has managed to grab a deal with Sky Italia for the forthcoming campaign, something that seemed highly unlikely a few months ago. Secondly, and rather more bizarrely is the request that all clubs from Serie A give up another £2m of their income to squads competing in the Europa League, a request that has incensed many Presidents of clubs who are constantly fighting for every penny they can. Claudio Fenucci, one of the senior directors at Lecce has been so annoyed by the decision that he has decided to take the case to the Italian Court of Federal Justice to try to get the decision annulled explaining that “two years ago Lecce earned £17m in Serie A, now we must leave £4m to Serie B and Europa league clubs, it is an abuse of our club”. Strong words indeed but a sentiment that will be shared by the President’s of the other two newly-promoted sides.
If we take a look lower down the Calcio pecking order, the divide between rich and poor has never been more prominent. For the new campaign, 21 teams have failed to officially meet the criteria necessary to make the big kick off at the end of August. Ancona, relegated from Serie B last term have folded as a club and will now look to rebuild from Italy’s fourth tier or even the Eccellenza division, both amateur leagues. Rai Sport 1 and 2, who are part of Italy’s state broadcaster, will again show live matches from Lega Pro, effectively Italy’s third tier, but revenue raised from this will barely cover staff salaries with many clubs opting to play with what effectively is a youth side, drafting in players who are in their late teens. Serie A is entering one of its most important seasons for years with a new look, a new television deal and new additions to squads. But the overall picture is anything but rosy. In Italy it is known as “calcio caos”, for teams in the lower leagues unable to have a slice of an £679m cake, never has this term been more truthful.