Italian clubs fighting debts but losing fans
Top flight clubs in Italy are struggling to lure fans to matches although clubs are fighting debt in spite of the ongoing financial crisis in the country, according to a report released Thursday by the Italian football federation (FIGC).
According to the 'Report Calcio', which studied figures from the 2011-2012 season, there was a 1.6 percent drop, roughly equal to 200,000 spectators, in the number of Serie A spectators compared to the previous season.
Serie B, meanwhile, was in comparatively better health attracting 22.8 percent more spectators in 2011-2012, according to the FIGC study being conducted for the third consecutive year by the Research and Legislation Agency AREL.
From match-fixing scandals that have left a huge stain on Serie A to racism that blights several clubs, Italian football has suffered internally over the years but has also fallen victim to the growing popularity of leagues in England, Spain and Germany.
The widespread availability of pay-per-view or satellite television is believed to be a factor in the decrease in attendances at many stadiums.
Television rights make up 43 percent of clubs' revenues, compared with ticket sales which account for nine percent, said the report.
It claims the decline of many stadia in Italy is a significant factor.
Of the 36 stadiums used by clubs in Serie A and B, "many are ageing and do not meet the lowest criteria set out by European football's governing body UEFA", the report said.
Only one top flight club, Juventus, has a purpose-built stadium based on those found in abundance in England and Germany. Many of the rest are owned by local councils.
"Compared to our European competitors, our Achilles heel is our stadia," said Enrico Letta, the secretary general AREL.
"When it comes to ticket sales, Germany is well ahead and that has a direct effect on sporting results."
On Tuesday Italian champions Juventus suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final to Bayern Munich, who are enjoying a stellar season in the Bundesliga.
"You just have to look at the results from the Champions League earlier this week," he added.
FIGC president Giancarlo Abete said potential for growth was hindered by the fact that many clubs do not own their stadium: "Revenue from ticket sales is on the decrease, so there is huge potential for growth.
"In Italy, stadiums are often owned by local councils, and many have other problems to deal with (than filling stadiums).
"Clubs who have built new stadiums have witnessed exponential growth."
Emanuele Grasso of financial audit company Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), said: "Up until 2007 the big Italian clubs could keep pace with their European rivals."
Underlining average attendances of 22,000 per match in Serie A compared to an average of 44,000 in the Bundesliga, he added: "Now, they're lagging behind."
The report added that while Italy in general is considered to be hovering near to financial crisis, Italian football clubs are being managed more efficiently.
Revenues for the 2011-2012 season rose seven percent compared to the previous season to 2.7 billion euros.
Serie A is still in the red, but while "388 million euros in debt" at the end of the 2011-2012 season, according to PWC, it has improved on the debt of 430 million recorded a year previously.
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