Debt-ridden Italian football clubs have agreed a new three-year rights deal with state broadcaster RAI, accepting a potentially big cut in rates to keep their sport on public television.
The agreement ended weeks of bickering between the two sides, but does not resolve continuing arguments over pay-per-view deals with private television stations that have delayed the start of the 2002/03 season. Under the terms of today's compromise, RAI said it would pay clubs €62m a year for highlights of Serie A games and live transmission of Italy's domestic cup competition.
This represented a 27 per cent drop on last season's fees, but the clubs could earn an additional €13m a year depending on audience figures. The Lega Calcio postponed the start of the season by two weeks until 14 September because eight of the smaller Serie A clubs did not have pay-per-view deals for live match coverage - the lifeblood of the game. Yesterday the pay-TV companies upped their offer by almost 50 per cent to €50m, to be shared out according to club status.
The eight clubs
While the offer still falls short of the combined €80m sought by Atalanta BC, Brescia Calcio, AC Chievo Verona, Como Calcio, Empoli FC, Modena FC, AC Perugia and Piacenza FC, it puts the ball squarely back in the clubs' half.