Quartet of Serie A clubs missing shirt sponsors as betting ads ban bites
By Euan Cunningham
Four teams in Italian soccer’s top-tier Serie A, including two-time former champions Lazio, are without main shirt sponsors as the 2019-20 season gets under way, with a new law banning the advertising of gambling companies having had an impact.
Lazio, the Rome-based club which won the Coppa Italia cup competition last season, plus Genoa, S.P.A.L, and Sampdoria, are still without major sponsors for the campaign, which kicks off tomorrow.
Last August, Lazio signed a short-term deal with Marathonbet, the international online betting company, in full knowledge that a ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship was looming.
The club has yet to attract a new partner since the agreement expired at the end of last season, and a recent report by the FIGC, the Italian soccer federation, stated that it would miss out on around €4.5 million ($5 million) this year as a result of the lost Marathonbet sponsorship.
Last summer, the Italian gambling market was rocked by the passing of the so-called ‘Dignity Decree’ drawn up by the country’s coalition government, which centred on labour conditions, but also outlawed all forms of gambling advertising (except for the country’s national lottery).
The legislation covers sponsorship across all sports, meaning that various Serie A clubs have been deprived of lucrative deals. The proposal was driven by Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio, of the Five Star Movement party, in reaction to concerns over the impact of betting on family finances and vulnerable members of society.
In January this year, clubs were told that they could honour existing commitments to betting sponsors until the end of the 2018-19 season, but that all sponsorship arrangements with such companies would have to end at that point.
In addition to Lazio, Serie A teams with betting sponsors affected by the ruling have included, AC Milan (StarCasino), Inter Milan (bwin), Juventus (Betfair) and Roma (Betway).
The FIGC report found that as of 31 December 2018, there were 15 active commercial agreements between Serie A clubs and betting sponsors.
The ruling also affects visiting soccer teams in Italy. For example, Wolverhampton Wanderers, of England's Premier League, were unable to display branding of their main sponsor ManBetX, the Asian betting website, for their match against Torino in the Uefa Europa League last night, instead playing with the logo of the Wolves Foundation, their charity arm.
A recent report sent to the Italian government calculated that between them, Serie A clubs would lose in the region of €100 million ($110 million) in sponsorship revenues as a direct result of the blanket ban.
Multiple Serie A clubs and betting companies have been critical of the legislation, and criticised it publicly.
However, there is uncertainty over how long it will be maintained amid political uncertainty in Italy, with prime minister Giuseppe Conte having quit this week, claiming he could no longer work with his coalition partners.
|Serie A shirt sponsorship and kit supplier deals 2019-20|
|Club||Shirt Sponsor||Sector||Kit Supplier|
|Atalanta||Radici Group||Chemicals/Plastics Manufacturing||Joma|
|Fiorentina||Mediacom||Telecoms||Le Coq Sportif|
|Hellas Verona||Gruppo Sinergy||Energy/Gas||Macron|
|Lecce||Moby||Cruise ferries||M908 (in-house)|
The automotive sector is the most represented in Serie A in terms of shirt sponsorship, with four clubs - Inter Milan, Juventus, Torino and Udinese - all having partners from that field, while two clubs - AC Milan and Roma - have major deals with airlines.
Juventus, the Serie A champions for the last eight seasons, are understood to have the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal, with Fiat paying the Turin club €17 million a year to promote its Jeep brand. AC Milan, Roma, and Inter Milan all earn over €10 million annually from their contracts.
While Sassuolo reportedly receive €18 million per year from Mapei, that sum also includes stadium naming rights.
In the battle of the kit suppliers, Macron, the Italian sportswear manufacturer, is now the leading brand, with tie-ups with six clubs, ahead of Joma, with four, and Kappa, with three.
Industry giants Nike and Adidas have deals with just three clubs between them although all three - Juventus, Inter Milan and Roma - finished in the top six of the league last season.
Lecce, the southern Italian outfit that has achieved two promotions in a row to return to Serie A for the first time since 2012, is the only club in the league to produce its kits in-house, having set up its own brand, M908, last year.