Serie A should consider a deal with private equity firms

Italy’s top flight Serie A soccer league should follow the example of Spain’s LaLiga and open up to private equity investors to mend clubs’ finances ravaged by the pandemic, the new U.S. owner of Serie A club Genoa CFC has said.

Earlier this year, Spain’s top league soccer clubs backed private equity firm CVC’s proposed investment in LaLiga, in a deal aimed at strengthening clubs and give them funds to spend on new infrastructure and modernisation projects.

In Italy, drawn-out negotiations between Serie A and private equity firms CVC and Advent for a stake in a new company housing the league’s media rights have collapsed without a deal.

“Maybe the CVC-LaLiga deal is the best way to do it, maybe not … I think it’s definitely worth considering it,” Juan Arciniegas, managing director at U.S. firm 777 Partners, said, adding there could be many ways to structure a partnership.

“It is paramount to evaluate all the possibilities in order to enhance the capitalisation of the league and the clubs.”

Last week the Miami-based investment firm, which holds a stake in Spain’s Sevilla FC, became the sixth U.S. owner of a Serie A side, purchasing Italy’s oldest club Genoa in a 150 million euro ($128.05 million) deal.

“We recognise that these are difficult times, but difficult times create opportunities and the need for capital to meet opportunities. I think we could play a role in supporting the club both with capital and expertise”, Arciniegas said.

The 777 Partners fund plans to turn around Genoa, which ended 2020 with a 33 million euros loss, by injecting capital and restructuring some of the debt the club has piled up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The club has more debt than we intend to have in the medium term. We want to de-leverage as part of our project”, he said.

One of the biggest problems Serie A clubs have is that few own their stadiums, depriving them of revenue, while ambitious projects to build new arenas often get caught up in red tape.

Genoa share their home ground, which is owned by the city municipality, with rivals Sampdoria.

Arciniegas said that, despite the challenges, investing in the stadium would be a key part of a strategy to increase the club’s revenue base by broadening services for fans attending matches and for corporate partners.

“We are looking at every possibility … to allow us a direct investment into the stadium. It may be refurbishment, it may be expansion, it may be the creation of new spaces.”

($1 = 1.1714 euros)