Empty Seats in Serie A: How They Impact TV Rights and Global Appeal
September 25, 2023
Serie A’s aging stadia are filled with empty seats for far too many of their matches. This has a direct effect on the valuation of TV rights, which in turn hurts Serie A’s appeal to the international market.
How long will it take to reverse this trend? Let’s look at some of the underlying causes and possible solutions.
The Serie A standings reflect the 20 teams that currently compete in the top division of Italian football. The league was established in 1929 and is the oldest of Italy’s national football leagues. The club that is ranked first in the Serie A table is crowned champion of Italy and awarded the coveted Scudetto. The league briefly reverted to a regional structure after World War II before returning to its current format.
The top four teams in Serie A qualify directly for the Champions League group stage. The fifth-placed team and the winner of the Coppa Italia (if not already a Serie A participant) also qualify for the group stage.
The league is known for its tactical style of play and its emphasis on defence, although critics have accused it of being too physical and of not producing the best players in world football. Despite this, it has attracted some of the most famous names in football including Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, and Marco Van Basten.
Impact of Standings on Fan Attendance
The 2022-2023 season of the Serie A (officially Serie A TIM for sponsorship reasons) in Italy was the top-level league competition for Italian football clubs. The winner of the league receives the coveted scudetto and qualifies for the UEFA Champions League. The bottom three teams are automatically relegated to Serie B.
Aside from scudetto and relegation, there are many factors that affect fan attendance in the league. Some of these determinants are more impactful than others, however.
A notable example is the impact of home win probability on fan attendance. This coefficient is significant in the Ultras, East/West, and Away sectors, suggesting that local fans are attracted to games with higher home winning probabilities.
Serie A Title Races
Last season, Serie A produced one of the tightest, most dramatic title races in European soccer. While champions were handed out early in the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1, Milan, Inter and Napoli were all legitimate contenders for the Scudetto throughout the campaign.
Inter are currently two points clear of defending champions Juventus after a strong start to the season that included a 5-1 thrashing of city rivals Milan on Sunday. The result has led to reports in Italy’s top-flight papers suggesting that the league is heading for a tight racebang xep hang serie a between Simone Inzaghi’s side and Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve.
The top four teams in Serie A qualify directly for the Champions League, while the team finishing fifth and either the winner of the Coppa Italia or a sixth-placed team (depending on UEFA’s ranking methodology) qualify for the Europa League group stage. Teams finishing lower than the relegation zone are relegated to Serie B. Until 2022-23, playoff games were used when teams were tied on points in positions that would decide the title or relegation.
Challenges in Serie A Fan Attendance
While a Super League has been mooted as part of the cure to Serie A’s malaise, it would likely be more harmful than helpful. It would devastate the remaining clubs, reducing their valuation and ultimately causing them to lose even more money.
The problem is not confined to Serie A, however. The problem is endemic across Europe and can be attributed to a range of issues. As former Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi pointed out in his column in today’s Gazzetta Dello Sport, the predicament is far too complex to be pinned on one single cause. Sacchi lists stadiums that are “tired, obsolete, inhospitable and structured like the Colosseum” as well as an increasing presence of violent, racist Ultras who make life miserable for moderate fans and would “never have a place in civilized Europe”.
The result is that average spectators are turning away from Italian football. It’s a scandal and a major setback to the league’s reputation.