Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Serie A Breaking Away, Emulating the Premier League

In rather important news regarding Italian football, Serie A club presidents ratified the split of the Serie A from Serie B. The move is intended to emulate the creation of the Premier League and bring the Italian league back onto par with the EPL and La Liga.

As I noted in my preview/state of the league on the Serie A, Italian football suffers from individual TV contracts that benefit the big teams (Milan, Juve, Inter) and the league also distributes funds to their Serie B counterparts. In England, the old First Division broke away from the English Football League to become the Premier League, while the First Division (now known as the Football League Championship) remained but became what was previously the second division. The Premier League also negotiated collective television rights and corporate sponsors, infusing massive amounts of money to its clubs.

The Serie A will begin its breakaway league in 2010/11 and will no longer pay Serie B clubs. Although collective TV rights have not been negotiated yet, it can only be a matter of time before that happens. It will be interesting to see how that process plays out.

This news is particularly big and will have a very immediate effect on league play this season because relegation and survival have suddenly become much much more important. Serie B teams will also have that much more of an incentive to claim one of the promotion spots. There has been a long and sordid history in Italy regarding shady deals and payoffs at the end of the season when teams are fighting for relegation, survival, and promotion. You would think that the clubs involved this year will be watched closely to ensure a fair end to the season.

This was one of my keys to spurring a revival in the Serie A, and it is certainly a major step forward. Next will be negotiating the the collective TV deal, and finally improving the stadium situations (ownership, atmosphere, violence). I doubt this changes anything dramatically in the near future, particularly because rectifying the issue with stadiums will take a long time, but it certainly is a positive step for fans of Italian football.

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