Serie A clubs back new media company, two proposals in the mix

Italy’s Serie A football clubs have unanimously approved the formation of a new company designed to market the broadcast rights to the top division of the domestic game.

The 20 clubs gathered at a Lega Serie A assembly meeting yesterday (Wednesday) in Milan, electing to press forward with further analysis of two proposals for stakes in the newco from private equity companies.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the clubs would weigh up three offers for investment in Serie A.

There are now two proposals being considered, with both focused on the creation of a new media rights company.

One is a consortium consisting of CVC Capital Partners, Advent and Italy’s state-backed investor Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI) for a 10-per-cent stake in the vehicle valued at around €1.63bn ($1.92bn).

Bain Capital, along with NB Renaissance Partners (NBRP), is said to have made a €1.35bn offer for the same stake. US investment firm Fortress was previously said to have joined with Apax and Three Hills Capital Partners in a proposal consisting of equity and debt, with little governance control, but the clubs have elected to focus on the media newco proposals.

Following the meeting, Lega Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino said: “Now there are some steps to be taken, we will analyse the two proposals of the consortiums for the media company because there are some details to be verified. The Lega has worked for years with intermediaries, but it’s time for the value to stay in-house.”

A decision on which of the two proposals will be selected is expected by the end of the month, but Dal Pino said the Lega is committed to the newco strategy.

“If the negotiations do not go through, the only solution remains the media company, regardless of the presence of funds, but this would be the last resort,” he added, according to Corriere della Sera.

Dal Pino stated the option of a pure financial proposal to inject funds into the organisation was never contemplated. He said: “Debt is not admissible in Serie A. Whoever says so has not verified the consolidated financial asset structure. We need financial stability because we are entering a difficult time.”

Commenting on the backing from the clubs, Torino president Urbano Cairo said: “It was a very good decision, an epochal change that will greatly enhance Italian football. A good signal of unity has been given, because it is in the interest of Serie A to make a choice of this kind, delegating the management to competent executives who will be chosen by the private equity fund.”

Dal Pino also referred to legislation that is expected to be approved by the Italian Senate today as key to the future success of the newco. The so-called ‘Sbloccastadi – Stadium unblocker’ has been propelled by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in recent weeks and is designed to remove the bureaucratic red tape surrounding stadium development that has served to impede the industry in Italy.

Dal Pino said yesterday: “Tomorrow, there is a fundamental step for our future, namely the approval of the law on stadiums. We must quickly start the modernisation processes of the current stadia and the construction of new stadia in order to stay in step with the rest of Europe. It is also fundamental from the point of view of the media company. If you provide a product with inadequate stadia, it is difficult to compete.”