The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Italian ‘save soccer’ law under scanner

Brussels: The European Commission has launched an investigation into a controversial Italian law aimed at helping the country’s cash-strapped soccer clubs. The probe into Italy’s ‘save soccer’ decree, which was adopted in February, will examine whether it violates EU rules on state aid and accounting, a European Union source said on Tuesday.

The law allows debt-hit soccer teams to spread the cost of expensive player signings over 10 years instead of the standard three-year period that all other companies are subject to.

Mario Pescante, Italian under-secretary of state responsible for sport, said the probe had been widely expected. “We certainly need to come into line but in a well-thought out way,” he said.

Italian soccer has been suffering from increasing debt problems affecting clubs at all level. In 2002, one of the top clubs Fiorentina went bankrupt and were forced to reform.

A recent survey by financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore showed Serie A, the country’s top league, posted a combined operating loss of 948 million euros ($1.03 billion) last season with wages gobbling up 85 percent of revenue. Debts soared 41 percent to 2.5 billion euros.

Under the ‘save soccer’ amendment, clubs would be able to reduce their annual debt.

According to Italy’s La Repubblica, Inter has written down player value to the amount of 319 million euros, Milan AC has done so for 242 million euros, A.S. Roma for 234 million and Lazio for 213 million. Juventus, which won the Serie A league last year, did not make use of the decree.

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