Berlusconi under fire in Serie A TV rights row

January 12, 2006

ROME, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A proposed reform to the law governing the way Italian football clubs sell their TV rights has been controversially blocked by Forza Italia, the party created by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose family holding company Fininvest owns Serie A giants AC Milan.

Fourteen Serie A clubs, led by Fiorentina owner Diego Della Valle, are pushing for a change in the law that allows individual clubs to negotiate their own TV rights.

They want a return to collective bargaining in the hope that the money will be more equally spread among the division's 20 teams.

At present big sides like Milan and Juventus receive up to 10 times more than some of their Serie A rivals.

But on Wednesday Forza Italia spokesman Elio Vito told the heads of the other parties in the Italian Parliament that they were not willing to discuss reform, claiming there was not enough time to reach agreement before elections on Apr. 9.

Forza Italia hold a majority in the Italian Parliament. Their decision was attacked by figures in both the political and football worlds.

Andrea Ronchi, a member of Parliament for the National Alliance party, said there had been wide parliamentary consensus on the need for reform.

The president of Serie A club Palermo, Maurizio Zamparini, called the decision an 'own goal' for Berlusconi.

'Democracy doesn't exist in Italy. All there is is a group of powerful clubs that try to get their hands on something that will suit them and help them win for the next few years,' he said in an interview on TV news channel RaiNews24 on Thursday.

'Other countries have already dealt with this problem and resolved it by selling rights collectively.

'In Italy, on the other hand, we are constantly reinforcing the power of the big clubs at the expense of the smaller ones.'

The gulf between Serie A's richest clubs and its poorest has grown dramatically since individual contracts were introduced in 1999.