Italian football represents a paradox. It produces teams which, at the elite level, are the most successful in European club competitions, and second only to Brazil in national competitions. The quality of its players, in terms of sporting excellence, make it one of the most admired football cultures in the world. The romance and tradition of Italian football captures the imagination of a global sporting public. On the other hand, the industry is chronically unprofitable and unstable, and characterized by a long history of financial scandal. The 2007/2008 season saw it continue to endure an ongoing crisis of confidence in the wake of financial and sporting scandals, an upsurge of spectator violence in dilapidated stadia and crowds well below their peak in the 1990s. This article presents a comprehensive case study of the recent history of Italian football focusing on its administration, governance and regulation. The objective of the case study is to provide a detailed context, in one of the big five European football markets (the others being England, France, Germany and Spain), against which to analyse and inform fresh thinking on how more effective systems of corporate governance in European football might be developed. Much of what is written about the governance of football tends to focus on the English industry. A premise of this article is that it is necessary to move beyond an anglo-centric orientation and analyse the systems and experience in other European football markets and cultures. This is because football in individual countries forms part of a pyramid structure ultimately governed by the European football governing body, UEFA. What happens in individual country markets has the potential to affect what happens in other markets either by way of example, through influencing UEFA policy, or through precedent-setting rulings in the courts, such as the Bosman ruling of 1995 which allowed players free movement at the end of their contracts without a transfer fee having to be paid as had hitherto been the case. The case study is interdisciplinary in its focus - economic, social and political dimensions are all important in trying to understand what constitutes the Italian model of football, a European model of football or indeed the European model of football. Critically the article asks the following questions: (1) Is it possible for Italian football to prosper in an environment in which there appears to have been significant shortcomings in governance? (2) If not, what should be the key planks of an agenda for reform? (3) Is there potential for 'contagion' of negative Italian experience in the rest of the European football market?
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science