Italy is entering a very tough economic time. One of the ideologies Italians should blame for their current state is Reaganomics, or “Trickle-down economics”. These are terms used in reference to the idea that tax breaks and other economic benefits provided by the government to businesses and the wealthy citizens will eventually benefit the poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole.
In reality, however, only a handful of rich guys enjoyed Reaganomics. Nothing really “trickled” down to the poor masses, who only got poorer as the rich got richer. It happened in Italy, and in Italian football as well.
Since 2007, Serie A clubs have been handed the responsibility of selling their own broadcasting rights to designated channels. The big clubs said they will get great money, which in turn will “trickle down” to smaller clubs through transfer fees paid on the smaller clubs’ players.
Just like in real-life economy, this idea failed, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened: AC Milan, Inter and Juventus all got between €130m to €140m per season each for their TV rights, whileNapoli, Roma, Lazio and other semi-challengers got between €25m to 40m per season. Smaller clubs got a lot less.
This big margin in revenue did not give the smaller clubs a good enough base to compete with the bigger teams. The gaps in quality widened, and the Serie A suffered from boring, one sided games, and entire seasons have come and gone with no real drama. The entire league suffered from a lack of interest – even the big clubs suffered from a reduced income in sponsorships and tickets sales.
Other factors that led to the lack of interest in the Serie A include violence, match fixing, the “benefactor model“, plus the exodus of talent to other countries.
All that seems to have been changed when the league returned to the collective selling of television rights, which allowed clubs such as Udinese and Napoli to challenge for top spots without a sugar daddy that pumps loads of dough into the club.
It is great for the league and for the future of Italian football. The league is a lot more interesting now, with smaller gaps between the rich and the poor. Now, clubs can create a better plan for the long term – Smaller clubs can keep their stars longer, because the big clubs can no longer just spend a few millions every time they see a player with a little talent.
It also allows smart clubs to invest in youth and infrastructure and be calm about keeping a solid team in the Serie A – this is better for Italian football as a whole.The only thing that keeps the Serie A behind is the fact that most clubs still rely on a patron. The fans’ involvement in their club is much more limited than in, say,Germany.
Letting fans have more institutional power over the clubs will ensure that the clubs will run better and in a more transparent way. That will be the next step in the revival of Italian football.
It’s already happening at small clubs in Italy, and once this movement enters the Serie A, good things will happen.