Handbook on the Economics of Professional Football
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Handbook on the Economics of Professional Football

Edited by John Goddard and Peter Sloane

In this comprehensive Handbook, John Goddard and Peter Sloane present a collection of analytical contributions by internationally regarded scholars in the field, which extensively examine the many economic challenges facing the world's most popular team sport.
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Chapter 19: The decline of professional football in Italy

Tito Boeri and Battista Severgnini


From being the best football tournament in the world, the Italian First Division (also known as Serie A) is getting more and more marginal in the global arena. There are few star players left, and no superstars as they have been poached by teams playing in the English Premier League, the Spanish Liga, the French first division or other remote championships where there are club presidents who can afford them. From having four teams qualifying for the Champions League, Italian football may soon have only two teams involved in the most important tournament at the Continental level. Every year, Serie A loses about 5 per cent of stadium spectators with respect to the previous season. More importantly, financial conditions of Serie A teams are getting worse and worse. In the 2010/11 football season, the total debt of Serie A increased to €2.6 billion, roughly one-sixth of a point of Italian gross domestic product (GDP), a 60 per cent increase with respect to the 2006/07 season. The debt to asset ratio, an indicator of (un)sustainability, increased even more, as the drain of top players and sales of real estate owned by the teams reduced total assets by some €200 million. The bad financial conditions span beyond Serie A. Only 19 out of 107 professional clubs realized net profits in 2010/11.

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