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Revenues rise, but debts mount for Italian football, according to FIGC report

FIGC president Gabriele Gravina (by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Revenue generated from the Italian football system rose to €3.8bn ($4.5bn) in 2018-19 but losses and debt also grew significantly, according to the latest edition of ReportCalcio.

The 10th edition of the report, which is produced by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) alongside research agency AREL and professional services group PwC, sheds light on football’s claim to be the leading sporting contributor to the country’s economy.

The report claims an aggregate turnover for professional football of €3.8bn in 2018-19. This is an increase of 8.5 per cent year-on-year thanks to a rise in commercial and media rights revenue of 19.7 per cent and 11.8 per cent, respectively.

However, the report states increases in labour costs and amortisation/write-downs led to a further deterioration in the level of loss, from €215m in 2017-18 to €395m in 2018-19. Debt also grew, reaching €4.7bn.

However, net equity strengthened, with the report claiming this growth in recent years has been significantly higher than that of debt. Net equity has risen from €37m in 2014-15 to €623m in 2018-19.

The report was issued just hours before today’s (Thursday’s) announcement of a major financial deal in Italian football. Serie A club AS Roma is set to receive new American owners after the Friedkin Group agreed a €591m deal to acquire the team.

The report also states that there remains “critical issues” with regards the state of football infrastructure in the country. While a number of significant stadium projects are currently ongoing involving the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan, Cagliari and Bologna, on the whole Italian football has suffered from a lack of investment in stadia since the country’s hosting of the 1990 Fifa World Cup.

Italy staged the 2019 Uefa European Under-21 Championship and the report is critical of infrastructure as a whole, despite what it says was an “encouraging turnaround” in development of existing stadia through the hosting of the tournament.

The event allowed for an investment in promotional activities and for the modernisation of infrastructure equal to over €30m. However, the report states Italy accounted for just one per cent of the total investments in new stadia in Europe between 2009 and 2019, with the average age of current venues being 63 years. The report added that attendance in Italian stadia was 16.1 million in 2018-19, a rise of 1.1 million over the past three seasons.

Commenting on the report, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina said: “As is clear from this edition of the ReportCalcio, football is a key industry for the economy and the social aspects of our country and which stands out for its enormous potential, as well as for its various excellences.

“FIGC’s intention is to continue investing in the growth of our discipline, whose socio-economic return is unparalleled, but we want to focus our policies on the wide room for improvement, with the aim of developing Italian football even more.”

Referring to the Covid-19 crisis, PwC senior partner Andrea Samaja added: “What has happened in recent months has further accelerated the transformation paths of various entertainment segments. Even football will necessarily have to restart from the best practices registered in recent years and from new great challenges.

“Therefore, (the industry should) explore more effective models of involving their fans, take advantage of the consolidation of the ‘digital revolution’ by integrating, for example, the most innovative frontiers of entertainment such as the world of esports.”