Serie A earmarks June 13 return, maintains TV rights payment stance

Clubs from Italy’s top-tier Serie A today voted to resume the competition on June 13, pending government approval, as the league continued to adopt a tough stance on payments by rights-holding broadcasters.

During today’s league assembly meeting, a total of 16 clubs voted in favour of the return date in question, with four voting for the June 20 alternative, according to ANSA.

Following the meeting, Lega Serie A announced that the June 13 date for the resumption of the championship “has been indicated, and in accordance with the decisions of the government and the medical protocols for the protection of players and staff”.

Clubs are expected to resume group training on May 18.

Serie A has been suspended since March 9, with Italy particularly hard hit by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The league also today stressed that rights fee payments must be met by broadcast rights-holders.

A statement read: “Lega Serie A reiterates, in its relationship with audiovisual rights licencees from 2018 to 2021, the need to meet the payment deadlines stipulated in the contracts in order to maintain a constructive relationship with them.”

Domestic rights-holders Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster, and DAZN, the subscription OTT player, plus the league’s international rights agency IMG, have all been pushing for deferrals because of the shutdown of the league.

The trio were due to make their latest rights fee instalment payments on May 1 as part of their deals running from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Ahead of today’s league assembly meeting, Sky Italia chief executive Maximo Ibarra said that he hoped it would “finally be the right occasion for representatives of Serie A clubs to take the proposal for dialogue that we have offered them for weeks seriously”.

He told ANSA: “Across Europe, in Germany, France and the UK, leagues and broadcasters are jointly addressing this serious emergency by finding balanced and general interest solutions.”

Ibarra said that Sky has “proposed several solutions but has not received a response” and called on Serie A to “rediscover its constructive spirit that has marked many years of collaboration with Sky”.

However, he was met with a swift response from Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo, who said that, although the “door for dialogue with Sky has always remained open”, the league has “always stressed that it was necessary for Sky to meet the payment deadlines set by the contracts as a priority”.

He added: “We immediately made it clear that Sky’s request for a discount of between 15 per cent and 18 per cent, in the event of the continuation of the championship, obviously could not be accepted, especially during such a tricky financial period for our teams.”

Domestic live rights to Serie A games are currently held by Sky and DAZN in deals worth €973m ($1.05bn) per season. IMG’s international rights deal is worth just over €380m per season for international broadcast rights, club archive rights, betting rights, a marketing spend and fee for access to the broadcast signal.

It recently emerged that private equity company CVC Capital Partners is considering Serie A for its next sporting investment, through a deal involving the sale of domestic broadcast rights from the 2021-22 season onwards.

CVC is said to have held preliminary talks to present a proposal under which a newco would be created to manage and resell Serie A’s rights, potentially for a 10-year period.

CVC has held talks about acquiring a 20-per-cent stake in Serie A for €2bn, according to the Financial Times. It has also been claimed that US-based private equity group Blackstone is prepared to offer the league a €100m loan to meet the short-term needs of clubs during Covid-19.