Soccer in Italy – Serie A and the economic business

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In Italy soccer is the national sport, the one most viewed and commented on social networks, the one where the majority of Italians celebrate in the streets, in the squares and in their homes. This tradition obviously generates a market where all teams aim to enter the most important league: the Serie A. To enter this league, not only do you need good players, that’s the minimum, but above all you need money. This money is needed for the stadiums and obviously for the soccer market where there are loans, purchases and everything that follows. Although this article will focus on the economic business of Serie A, it hasn’t always been this way since obviously all the new technologies, from social to TV deals, have transformed this league over time. The stellar revenues of Italian soccer, moreover, are certainly generated by Italian enthusiasm, which reached one of its peaks during the 80s and 90s, when Italian soccer became again an opportunity for foreign players.

Just think, if today there are a lot of them in all teams, even in Serie B and minor leagues, in 1980 there were just 11. The stars were Falcao for Roma, Bertoni for Fiorentina, Brady for Juventus, Krol for Napoli, Prohaska for Inter. The others were defined as the poor ones. Then many others came along, the most famous being Maradona in 1984. Certainly, however, this phenomenon of foreign players was absolutely far from today’s phenomenon where Italian soccer teams, especially the most important ones like Inter, Napoli, Milan and Juventus, have many non-Italian players among their ranks. Everything changed with the famous Bosman ruling in 1995, which opened the borders to everyone. Before the ruling you could have three non-Italians in your team. This fact, which seems to be only a football fact, actually increased considerably the passion of the people. Maradona is the emblem of this reasoning. Every Neapolitan saw in his coming the salvation for the team, a hope that could launch Napoli towards the Champions League. Like the Argentinean footballer, many others were considered the messiahs of their teams. In the meantime, the ratings grew and, therefore, so did the economic revenue.

All those fans watched the matches on the most important TV channels, so you will have already understood what I am going to talk about: television economic revenues. Without television, even today, most Italians would not watch the games. Those who enter Serie A already know that they will have an economic return. With respect to this analysis, there is a law that sanctions the economic distribution of TV rights. It is the Melandri law, which reorganizes the revenues in this way:

– a share equal to 50% is divided equally among all clubs participating in the Serie A Championship (approximately 534 million);

– a share equal to 15% on the basis of the league table and the points achieved in the last championship (about 160 million)

– a 10% share, based on the results achieved in the last five Championships (approximately 106 million)

– a share equal to 5%, on the basis of the ranking drawn up taking into account the results achieved at national and international level from the 1946/47 football season to the sixth prior to the reference season (about 53 million)

– a share equal to 8%, based on the television audience certified by Auditel (about 85 million)

– a 12% share, based on the number of paying spectators who purchased tickets to attend home matches played in the last three championships (approximately 128 million). 

In the last few seasons, Serie A has distributed a net annual amount of 1.068 billion euros to clubs: from the approximately 1.3 billion euros in total revenues, the money used for parachutes or for the advisor, for example, must be deducted.

In Italy we have had great players in recent years, stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, who are just some of the top talent that have decided to participate in Serie A. Compared to past decades, in fact, Italy has become over time an excellent launching pad or confirmation of some champions, precisely because the teams had more and more money, therefore more good players and consequently more visibility. It is not by chance that the Italian championship occupies 3rd place in the UEFA ranking, behind the English Premier League and the Spanish Primera División. But why is the Premier League in first place? Is there really so much difference?

There has been a lot of talk about the differences between the Premier League and Serie A, how they work differently. In addition to fans, the general public, there are two other categories that are often asked about these questions, namely analysts and professionals. Those in fact who work, namely coaches, players and many others, could provide an answer to these questions. In 2020, The Insider, Betway’s blog, collected several statements precisely on the comparison between the two leagues, asking three players who have been in both leagues what differences there were. The three players are Felipe Anderson, Angelo Ogbonna, and Carlos Sanchez.

Ogbonna, for example, in virtue of his past at Torino and in the ranks of Juventus, says that in Italy “the defensive part is seen as a departmental game, while here very often you find yourself playing one-on-one, dueling with your opponent”. While Anderson, who has played several seasons in our championship with the Lazio shirt, finds differences in the fans: “in Italy the fans are warmer and more demanding”. Sanchez, a midfielder who has made 39 appearances with Fiorentina, also talks about the training sessions: “here they have the habit of giving you a day off in the middle of the week if you have an English coach. In Italy, I think we train more”.

Obviously they are only three players and they cannot state the truth. Each one has had different experiences in Italy, some better, some worse. Speaking instead of the economic difference between the two leagues there are so many differences. Quoting an article from Sky sport:

“As early as 2011, the Premier League was ahead of our Serie A by about 1.7 billion euros, or 70%. Over the next five years, the range widened considerably and the Premier League doubled its revenues while Serie A increased them by 30%. The Premier League has an average annual growth of 15%, Serie A only 5%. Full stadiums, although on average smaller than those in Italy. The stadium revenues of the English are three times those of Italian clubs. The range has remained more or less constant over the years, even if this figure is slightly distorted by the devaluation of the pound after the referendum on Brexit. From this point of view, the Premier has grown with an impact of 4% on average per year, while Serie A has grown by 5%. All in all, the two leagues remain in line with their respective trends but with very different starting values.”  “As mentioned, the English ones are on average smaller, but there is a huge difference in terms of average spectators that more or less, for England and Italy, in recent years, has remained the same. The Premier League has an average of 36,000 spectators, while the Serie A has 23,000, less than two thirds of the Premier having larger stadiums and lower prices. This gives us an even better understanding of why there is such a large gap in terms of stadium revenues, which then refers to the fact that the games are played in more modern stadiums, owned by the clubs, which, as a result, bring significant advantages”.

In England, it never falls below 90 percent, in Italy only once in 2017/18 did it reach 60 percent. England dances between 92 and 96 percent, Italy, between 52 and 62 percent. This increase, in Italy, is mainly generated by the good performances of Inter and AC Milan, which did very well last season and helped raise the utilization rate. We analyzed three cycles for both leagues and especially focused on TV rights sold abroad. The total value of TV rights is 3.1 billion euros for the Premier League while for Serie A it is 1.3 billion. If we take the average of the 9 years that we have analyzed, 42% of the total revenues come from abroad for the Premier League, even if the trend is slightly downward. This shows how the Premier League product is more attractive on the international market. This is one more incentive for Serie A to find ways to appear more attractive abroad. In this sense, La Liga and Bundesliga are growing a lot.

For all these reasons, and they are really many, the Premier League remains the best league, according to UEFA’s ranking, in the world. After that, certainly the receipts and the football market in Italy are really noteworthy, otherwise we would not be so important at European and world level. Thanks for reading. 

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