Infront sues Italian newspaper for libel

The Infront Italy arm of the Infront Sports & Media agency has filed a lawsuit against Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera concerning “false rumours and misinformation” contained in reports surrounding its role as media-rights sales adviser to the Lega Serie A, the top division of Italian football.

Infront said Corriere della Sera’s reporting had gone “well beyond the limits of acceptable debate,” resulting in “information that is untrue, and in serious allegations that damage the reputation and image of Infront Italy.”

Infront added: “The damage done to Infront Italy lies, in particular, in continuous discrediting which calls into question the legitimacy and fairness of (Infront’s) role, presenting a pay-television operator as the only really reliable and capable competitor to create value in the otherwise feeble world of Italian football.

“What makes the work of the Corriere more serious is the fact that the articles come during a delicate moment of business, i.e. in the period when the Lega is discussing the strategy of marketing its broadcasting rights for the coming seasons. Infront Italy felt compelled to protect its own name against anyone who questions the proper conduct of its activities and its honesty in its role as adviser.”

Earlier this month, Infront offered to guarantee the league media-rights income of €5.5bn ($7.5bn) over the six seasons from 2015 to 2021 to retain its role with the top division of Italian football.

Infront’s current six-year deal as adviser is due to expire at the end of the 2015-16 season.

The agency proposed a new contract worth €900m per season for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, rising to €930m for each of the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

Infront’s role has come under scrutiny recently. Seven Serie A clubs, led by Juventus, wrote to the league last month calling for a thorough assessment of market conditions both in Italy and abroad before the adviser contract is awarded from 2016 onwards.

Although none of the clubs openly criticised Infront, reports claimed that they were concerned that the agency had been paid an excessive commission for selling the media rights for the 2012-13 to 2014-15 period. Infront is thought to earn about €35m per season from its current deal.

Juventus, along with Fiorentina, Internazionale, Roma, Sampdoria, Sassuolo and Verona, also called for an open tender process to appoint an adviser.

The Corriere della Sera is owned by RCS Media Group, in which Fiat motors are the largest single shareholder, with 20.1 per cent. Juventus’s owners, the Agnelli family, are the largest single shareholder in Fiat. The owners of Fiorentina, the Della Valle family, also have a stake in RCS Media Group.

The newspaper is one of the oldest and most respected in Italy, with a daily circulation of over 400,000.