Fenucci: “Those who create debts without knowing whether they will be able to repay them alter fair competition”

Claudio FenucciCEO of Bolognaspoke during the hearing before the Seventh Commission of the Senate as part of the Italian football reform project, speaking about the need for public interventions on the stadium front, the too rigid limits on the Melandri Law and the need for more stringent controls on the front economic: “I avoided producing a document because there is one from the League which is already available to you and summarizes the critical elements of Italian football. As an experience I bring that of a manager who has acted as CEO of football clubs for 27 years between Lecce, Rome and Bologna, I have seen the evolution of the football system in recent years. I started from what was at the basis of many economic problems of our industry, namely the Bosman ruling which in 1995 substantially liberalized the transfers of footballers and has made professional clubs much weaker. The strength of negotiation by footballers has meant that over the last 25 years despite significant growth in European football which, unlike US sports, is constantly exposed to losses” .

Fenucci he then continues with his analysis, as we read above CalcioeFinanza.it: “I started from there because the industry’s difficulties in growing as such have created peculiar difficulties in our system, which have led from the 2000s in which the top clubs billed like the big European competitors to a situation in which we bill half the Premier League, we have become a much less performing league. And if we underperform on an economic level we also do so from a sporting point of view. In a sector in which European competitions are taking on an increasingly predominant role, not being competitive creates a problem There is a correlation between sporting and economic results but continuous investments must be made. Italian football today is in serious difficulty due to various delays, some of which had been partially resolved with the Growth Decree which had allowed it to become competitive again in recent years as demonstrated. from the results of the Italian clubs in the cups, but with the cancellation of this measure today we are back to the starting situation. The biggest delays are found in the stadiums, we have an unbearable backwardness. We have older and less usable stadiums in Europe and unfortunately an overall project has never been taken into consideration. It’s not just an economic fact but it’s also a cultural fact.”

Fenucci maintains that Italy is still behind: “We have accumulated a significant delay, we probably risk the European Championships in 2032 if we do not act quickly. We need interventions that concern two profiles: the first linked to the authorization processes which are complex and long, bringing pressure to local levels which make those processes politically unmanageable, the second of a financial nature because with the increase in the prices of materials and services many of the projects started however find themselves having financial problems because from the initial values ​​we arrive at increases of 40%. It’s a problem of financeability: shareholders do their part, but public intervention is also necessary. There are different forms to study, including with participatory tools that would not weigh on the state coffers, alongside special purpose companies that are created. to mobilize investments in stadiums there are two billion in equity already ready and a collateral intervention would be enough to start projects that can have returns equal to three times in the territory. It is a delicate issue but one that must be addressed quickly, if you want to intervene with a football reform you have to start from the stadiums.”

For Fenucci the problem with our projects “is that they do not have numbers of enormous economic return, because we first of all want to keep ticket prices accessible, but above all when the cost is taken into consideration the net result is very low. Our project is to a very complex redevelopment. We have not foreseen a significant increase in revenues, we do it more for legacy with the territory, a cultural and sporting aspect. The theme is that precisely because my example is different from other cases, each project represents a unique one. it is difficult to find a solution that is valid for everyone between redevelopments and new stadiums. Anyone who is preparing to redevelop a facility subject to restrictions by a superintendency will have an even lower return than someone who builds a new stadium, because today the revenue driver is entirely in the sector. hospitality for companies. A modern stadium from scratch will certainly be perfect from a hospitality point of view, while an old stadium will perform less well than today’s main driver because no one wants to pass on the cost of building the stadium to ordinary fans. So in addition to lower revenues, as mentioned, we also have higher costs, which is why I ask for public intervention which is not new nor would it be new in the European context: in the 200 stadiums built in Europe in recent years the private-public partnership is a practice, from Germany to England. Precisely because it is a complex with an impact from an urban planning and redevelopment point of view of the surrounding areas which necessarily requires public intervention. We need to find intelligent solutions because we understand the situation of public finances. These are operations that have unattractive returns for real estate funds but can be attractive for the State because they have profitability higher than the cost of money and are resources which, when invested, can generate employment, resources in the area and multiplier investments”.

Finally, Fenucci also talks about the issue of TV rights: “The situation of the Melandri Law was built at a time when the sale of rights was made on a market dominated by satellite television. Today we have a completely different mode of transmission, so many limitations today are not more current and should be realigned to the times. My shareholder is a Canadian entrepreneur whose company has a turnover of 12 billion, they are present in the MLS with Montreal and the MLS has sold all the rights to a single buyer, Apple difficulties even abroad, just think of the obligation to sell television rights in the USA for only three years: so the La Liga has blocked revenues for 10 years, while we now have to deal in the worst moment of the US television market other issues, from the youth sectors which would need a tax exemption to governance, a topic which however should be addressed internally. The League has not approved any proposal for separation, it has only voted for an in-depth analysis on how to act for greater decision-making autonomy even if i relations with the FIGC are linked to two fundamental factors: the issue of licenses and economic controls as well as the mechanisms for transferring players. The relationship with the FIGC is a relationship that will certainly need to be reviewed due to the presence of Serie A which today does not allow it to have a majority, but before facing a Premier League style separation I believe this should be assessed above all based on the consequences.”

In the end Fenucci highlighted the problems linked to economic controls: “It is complex to identify a system of controls because we are linked to those of UEFA, which has progressed slowly also under the pressure of the big clubs who misunderstand the restrictions on investments at European level, therefore UEFA has slow to introduce control mechanisms. The ability to not be sustainable is reflected in one figure: the US leagues pay between 43% and 45% of their revenues to their members, bringing the entire system into balance, while Italy pays the 65% Are we poorer than the others? I think, we are just more difficult than the others to cope with the competition. We live in a competitive environment that is not only Italian, the large revenues from TV rights will be on the European cups and if we are not competitive there we will struggle to remain hooked to the train of top professional football. This is why every control system, quite rightly, must be harmonized with those of UEFA. That is where we must work to restrict more and more. We can do something to make some national licensing parameters more stringent. Consider that those who create debt, even if they have the ability to do so, but it is not known whether they will be able to repay it in future seasons, alter fair competition when they use resources they do not have. It is not only an issue of solvency but also of the protection of fair competition. There have been clubs that have had economic difficulties and that have had transactions with the Revenue Agency on taxes (the clubs in particular that have taken advantage of the rules in question are Genoa and Sampdoria, ed.), but in the past perhaps some other clubs have relegated in their place. It can no longer last, it is no longer possible for those without resources to compete on the market. It is an issue that is very close to our hearts and that we can address within UEFA for licensing, but by harmonizing it with a more rigid internal system to guarantee fair competition between clubs in addition to the issue of solvency which is, however, more complex to address” .