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China to the rescue of Italian football


Italy has long been seen as the European nation that represents style, and that was also true of Italian football.  However, that image has been tarnished by decaying infrastructure in Italian cities and corruption ridden public services.  There seems to be no viable political solution.

At one time left-wing academics praised the Italian state holding enterprises that had been left over from Mussolini.   Then they discovered the 'Third Italy' of networked small firms producing luxury goods, but even that aspect of the economy was not quite what it appeared to be.

Football in Italy is better known these days for stubborn defending, ultras and falling attendances. Stadiums have not generally been upgraded since Italy hosted the 1990 World Cup.  Milan's San Siro, home to both the city's teams, doesn't fill half its 80,000 seats every week.

AC Milan made about €22m from ticket sales in the 2014/15 season, less than mid-table Everton. Match day revenues amount to little more than half of the total, compared to double that proportion in England, Spain and Germany.   That has left Italian teams reliant on qualifying for the lucrative Champions League, a feat only Juventus and Roma have managed consistently.

Italian clubs are particularly reliant on broadcasting revenues.  These account for 61 per cent of the revenue of the richest club, Juventus, according to Deloitte.  Wages account for 72 per cent of income, the highest level in Europe.   Over the past 10 years, Serie A teams went from break even to operating losses of €133m.

Now China, with its plan for world leadership in football, is coming to Italy's rescue.  Chinese buyers have acquired a stake in Inter Milan.  An unidentified Chinese group is circling AC Milan.  However, they may find that the investment required is larger than they anticipated.