Big Serie A clubs face threat to income in watchdog proposals

Italy’s competition watchdog has called on the government to amend the law to make the redistribution of media-rights income among Serie A clubs more equitable.

The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato said that less money should be allocated according the size of club’s supporter base and its performance since 1946-47, when the modern football league was founded, and more on recent sporting results.

If taken up by the government, the change would hit big city clubs and those with the most post-war league title wins. The clubs most heavily affected would be the ‘big six’ of Juventus (from Turin), the two Milan clubs, AC Milan and Inter, Roma and Lazio (from Rome) and Napoli (from Naples.)

Under the Melandri law, which has underpinned the media-rights sales process in Italian football since its introduction in 2008, 40 per cent of media-rights income is divided equally between clubs, 30 per cent is distributed according to clubs’ supporter bases and 30 per cent is distributed on the basis of sporting results, both recent and historic.

The authority has called for this to be replaced by a system that focuses more on “sporting merit,” such as the final position of a team in the table.

Income redistribution should be controlled by a third party, rather than Lega Serie A, the top Italian league, or its member clubs, the authority said.

The authority said that the current system stifles the competition and the appeal of the league by favouring the bigger clubs as a large portion of the income is based on the “history and reputation of a club,” making it difficult for smaller or developing clubs to compete.

Distributing the rights income based “on sporting merit would make it easier to achieve a balance between the participants in the competition and stimulate investment in sport by new entrants” and lead to a more attractive and competitive competition, the authority said.

“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 added. The party responsible for establishing the income split should be “divorced from the economic interests of a football club.”