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Wanda-Infront ‘among seven contenders’ for Serie A investment

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus takes a free kick during the Serie A match against Atalanta on July 11 (by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)

Seven groups, including Wanda Sports Group and its agency Infront, are said to have been given the green light to proceed with potential investment offers for Lega Serie A, governing body of the top division of Italian club football.

According to multiple reports in the Italian media, the process moved forward at the Lega’s latest general assembly meeting held yesterday (Monday). La Repubblica newspaper said Wanda-Infront, along with CVC Capital Partners, Bain Capital, Advent International, General Atlantic, TPG Capital and Apollo Global Management will be allowed to continue talks.

Infront has strong existing ties to the Lega. The agency holds a six-year near-€6bn ($6.8bn) minimum-guarantee agreement to work as its exclusive adviser on domestic and international rights media-rights sales, but that deal comes to an end in 2021.

Infront has worked as the league’s media-rights adviser since 2008.

The Lega is said to be requesting concrete offers from the participants by July 24, at which point it could convene a meeting for the final week of the month where proposals will be presented for clubs to vote on.

Reports concerning external investment in Serie A have been rife in recent weeks. Earlier this month,  Lega Serie A decided to continue to examine proposals from private equity investors following a general assembly meeting. It was recently reported that the French financial consultancy Lazard had been appointed by the Lega to help weigh the bids.

CVC had enjoyed an exclusive negotiation window but this is now thought to have expired. CVC’s reported €2.2bn bid was to acquire 20 per cent of a new company that would manage the media rights, Serie A’s international trademark and commercial development, and part-finance a new investment fund responsible for stadium development.

Yesterday’s meeting also saw the 20 Serie A clubs opt against withholding the signal from Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster and rights-holder, over an ongoing row over the payment of rights fees. The outcome was that Sky would once again be ordered to settle its outstanding rights fees, but that Sky could continue to broadcast matches as per its rights agreement.

Domestic live rights to Serie A games are held by Sky and DAZN in deals worth €973m per season, while the IMG agency holds the international rights in a 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.