Italian league split proposed

MILAN - The Italian football league is on course to split in two after a meeting of Serie A and B presidents on Thursday ended without agreement over future financial arrangements. "Nineteen Serie A clubs have today discussed starting a 'Serie A League'," a league statement said.

"The decision has been taken given it has been impossible to reach an agreement with Serie B clubs."

One Serie A club, which media reports said was relegation-threatened Lecce, was not part of the talks.

The Italian professional league is made up of the top flight Serie A and the second tier Serie B.

Presidents of second division clubs have been at loggerheads for years with their Serie A counterparts over how wealth is spread within the league.

Several Serie B sides have recently encountered financial problems and a split from Serie A may make their situations worse if money no longer filters down.

Serie B did not have a television deal last season and only managed an agreement shortly before the start of this term.

The league statement said Maurizio Beretta, the former head of Italy's employers' association, had been proposed as the new president of a breakaway Serie A after league incumbent Antonio Matarrese failed to find consensus over a way forward.

LOSE REVENUE

The English Premier League broke away from the other three professional divisions in 1992 and has gone on to become the richest in the world thanks to the absence of smaller clubs sapping resources.

Serie A clubs have watched with envy as English sides dominated the transfer market and the Champions League in the last two seasons.

AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has been among the most vocal about Serie A's problems and the need to find a solution to close the gap on the English.

Italian clubs do not own their stadiums, normally renting them from the local council, meaning they lose out on revenue.

Juventus are breaking ground by building their own stadium on the site of their former Stadio delle Alpi home, which will be the first Italian football arena to be sponsored.

Italian tax laws also complicate transfer deals.

All of this has led Serie A presidents to come up with a radical proposal to save money and concentrate on competing at the highest level.

"This time it's for real. It's not satisfactory but it was necessary," Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini told reporters after several threats of a breakaway in the past.


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