Learning From Other Leagues: Serie A

by Absolute Thai Football

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League Coefficient
The European League Coefficient decides how many of a country’s clubs will play in the Champions and Europa League based on their results over five seasons in those competitions. It’s two points for a win and one for a draw and then the season’s total is divided by the number of teams from that country. Serie A is ranked 4th behind The Premier League, La Liga and The Bundesliga.
In world team rankings, Milan are the only Italian team in the top ten, with Spain,Germany and sixth ranked league Portugal each having two teams, whilst England has three.

League Winners since the formation of the EPL in 1992: 5

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The 2006 scandal
Juventus finished as champions but were later stripped of the title. The scandal surfaced after Naples prosecutors investigated Italian football agency GEA World. Transcripts of telephone conversations published in Italian newspapers suggested that, during the 2004/5 season, Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi had undue influence over referee appointments. This is a useful story to read in Thailand where the selection of officials is opaque at best, with the most famous example being Thanom Borikut, a former contender to officiate at the 2010 World Cup. He was arrested for allegedly murdering his boss who, Thanom claimed, treated him unfairly and stopped him officiating overseas as a FIFA referee. Football Association of Thailand president Worawi Makudi said it would be a pity if Thanom was found guilty because he was a candidate to officiate at the {2010} World Cup.
You might want to read that last sentence again to let it sink in. Murder, confession and second chance. The fist time he officiated the game between Osotsopa and Muang Thong, he managed to red card the MT goalkeeper in the first half and spent the game looking bemused as the future league winners went on to win 4:1. I wonder why…
Back to the Italian scandal: runners up AC Milan were also implicated, meaning no championship was awarded that season. In Thailand there is no need for the multiple, foreign bought SIM cards of the Italian style. We have politicians on the bench. For a lowly paid official, the sight of a high ranking politico berating him on the touchline invites a foreign viewer to assume that the the politician’s presence has an effect. Whilst this is banned in the AFC, Thailand seems to be playing a get out of parliament free card. It will be interesting to scan across the bench at Nakhon Si Thammarat next season to see if the deputy agriculture minister Nattawut Saikua and the club’s “chief adviser” is wearing boots.

Number of Teams
For most of Serie A’s history it was a 16 or 18 club league but, since 2005, there have been 20. Juventus are currently one point ahead of Milan and, over the last three years, the title has been won by an average of 6 points. This is similar to the five point margins for Germany and Spain. The seven point average in Thailand is skewed by the 16 point gap this year as the previous two years only had a gap of two and three points. To see the percentage that the bottom team achieved of the champion’s total helps assess a league’s health. Italy’s bottom team gained 33% of the champion’s total over the last three years, Spain and Thailand achieved 34 % and Germany achieved a healthier 39%.

Attendances
Inter Milan are currently the best supported side with an average attendance of 53,000, whilst fellow Milanese club AC come in second with 50,785 and in third is Napoli with 47,454. The lowest average attendance is for Chievo at 9,750 and the league average is 23,827.
Having a lowest attendance 18% of the highest compares unfavorably with other major leagues. The EPL’s ratio is 22%, the Bundesliga is 27% with only the Barca / Madrid dominated Spanish league coming in lower, at 13%.

Foreign Players
In 2010 the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) halved the number of non EU players clubs could sign to only one per season to replace another non EU member of the squad. The decision was made following Italy’s shock exit from the World Cup finals in South Africa,where the reigning champions were sent home bottom of Group F.

Players’ Wages
There are no limits placed on wages, allowing the top spenders to shell out 16 times as much as the lowest with champions Milan spending €130 million whilst Cesena laid out €8 million.

Champions League and UEFA Cup places

The top three teams qualify directly to the Champions League group phase, with the fourth-placed team in the qualifying stages. This is a new, and worrying, development for the Italians now the previous fourth place belongs to the Bundesliga, creating a vicious circle of less teams accumulating less correlation points creating a possible future cut. Teams finishing 5th and 6th qualify for the Europa League.

Media coverage
Italian pay TV operator Sky Italia and broadcaster Mediaset own the rights to three seasons starting this year. They will pay an average of €560 million (£464 million) each season for the rights to all 20 teams. Mediaset’s package is worth about €265 million (£219 million) each season for the rights to 12 teams. Overall, the deals are worth about five per cent more than existing deals.

In Conclusion
Whilst a top four European league, the momentum is faltering for the Italians. Its coefficient score has dropped by over 2 points in the last two years. Whilst the gap between them and the Bundesliga above is 12 points, the margin below to France is only 5 points and 6 points to Portugal who are the lowest country with 3 Champions League places. Serie A has a perception problem of negativity and defensiveness . Of the four Leagues, it had the lowest goals per game ratio last season of 2.61. La Liga had 2.71, The EPL had 2.77 and The Bundesliga had 2.91.

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