The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - January 16

Communications Minister Mario Landolfi moved to calm a bitter dispute over soccer TV revenues that threatens to disrupt the Serie A championship. The minister announced he would hold discussions with broadcasters, the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC) and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on the matter, after some smaller clubs said they may stop playing AC Milan, Inter and Juventus if a fairer deal is not found.

The row exploded when Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party blocked a parliamentary discussion of a proposal to change the way soccer broadcasting revenues are negotiated and distributed. Berlusconi owns AC Milan and Italy's main private television network, Mediaset.

The proposal, which was backed by 14 smaller Serie A clubs and parties on both sides of the political spectrum, sought to re-introduce the collective negotiation of top-flight TV soccer rights. At the moment each club negotiates its own deal with broadcasters for the transmission of games from their home stadium. If the proposal had been approved, the clubs would have sold their rights together as a package and then shared out the money, as is the case in England, France and Germany.

The small clubs say the current system means the big sides with lots of fans land massive deals, while they are left with "the crumbs". Last month, for example, Juventus signed a deal with Mediaset worth 248 million euros for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. This is unfair, the minnows say, because, even though the big teams have more fans, there would be no championship without the smaller rivals.