Italy sets up body to oversee professional sports clubs' finances

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Montecitorio Palace, the lower house of Parliament, on the day Mario Draghi is expected to address the Parliament after he tendered his resignation last week in the wake of a mutiny by a coalition partner, in Rome, Italy July 20, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli?/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's government on Friday agreed to set up a committee to oversee the budgets of professional clubs in sports including soccer and basketball, in order to tackle the sector's financial issues and ensure fair competition.

A draft decree seen by Reuters ahead of a cabinet meeting which approved the plan said the "independent committee" would look after "the legality and regularity" of professional clubs' finances, to ensure they are properly managed and sustainable.

It will be able to issue opinions which may lead to measures concerning "admission, participation and exclusion" of clubs from professional competitions.

Initial reports of plans by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government to oversee club finances sparked outrage this month among top sports officials, concerned that such measures could pave the way for political interference in their affairs.

"The common goal is not only to reduce debts, but above all to work on the respect of fair competition and enable the supervisory bodies ... to take the right decisions," said Sports Minister Andrea Abodi.

"I am convinced that ... even those against it will work together to ensure that this new entity succeeds," Abodi added.

The proposal - still subject to change by parliament - has echoes of plans to appoint an independent regulator for English soccer.

The committee -- which is part of a broader sports decree -- will include six members and a president. Abodi said soccer and basketball clubs would be allowed to propose some of them.

Juventus and Inter Milan, two of the biggest names in Italian soccer, have both faced financial problems in recent years.

U.S. investment fund Oaktree Capital Management this week took over the ownership of Serie A champions Inter after a missed 395 million euro ($428 million) payment from the club's Chinese majority shareholder.

Juventus, controlled by the Agnelli family, suffered a 10-point deduction in Serie A last season and a ban from European competition in 2023-24 after accounting issues.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; additional reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Kim Coghill and Keith Weir)

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