Abstract: From Calciomercato to Calciopoli: Illegal Practices in the Italian Football Industry, 1950-2006

Giambattista Rossi


The football industry is among the top twenty in Italy with its estimated total turnover of around €4,200m in 2006. Renowned for the outstanding performances of its clubs at the international level, Italian football has progressively become unprofitable and has been embroiled in a number of major scandals in recent decades. Using a variety of secondary literature as well as extensive interviews with some key actors in the football sector, we claim that the emergence of illegal practices stemmed from poor and inefficiently enforced regulation. As the distorted governance structure of the Italian football industry represented only the clubs' interests, it allowed widespread abusive practices against players by hindering the adoption of those principles of labor legislation already guaranteed to other categories of workers. At the same time, it favored the diffusion of a culture of malpractice by preventing the federal bodies from monitoring clubs' compliance with the rules. Moreover, lack of competition in the media industry and conflicts of interest at the institutional and managerial levels allowed significant shortcomings in clubs' corporate governance. The familial style of ownership structure typical of Italian football clubs and poor entrepreneurial attitude also proved major obstacles to solving the problem of illegal practices.