Betting on Italian sports. Italian football and the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games represent important investment opportunities for American companies, according to the last two bulletins from the International Trade Administration – a division of the US Department of Commerce.
- That’s corroborated by ongoing rumours, reported by Tuttosport, that team owner Gianpaolo Pozzo will sell Udinese’s football club – after 37 years – to 890 Fifth Avenue Partners, a US-based fund, in July.
The details. The ITA’s first bulletin quotes July’s report from Italy’s national football federation (FIGC), which highlights “the high attractiveness of European football clubs” even despite the impact of Covid-19.
- In 2020 and 2021, as many as 55 first-tier football clubs changed ownership, marking an upward trend (25 in 2020 and 30 in 2021).
- In 23 out of 55 cases, the new owners are foreign. The US leads with 9 takeovers in the EU, of which 4 in Italy.
- From 2018 to 2022, the number of Italian professional football clubs with US investors grew from 1 (Roma) to 12 (including the last Serie A title holder, AC Milan).
- There are press reports of five other teams being eyed by US investors: Inter, Napoli, Sampdoria, Udinese and Verona.
Opportunity for growth… The bulletin notes that Italian analysts, managers and journalists believe that American and other foreign investors will bring new elements to the market. “New capital, sports business management skills – especially US financial models – and access to new revenue streams through international marketing and merchandising, social media and data management, and digital entertainment platforms.”
- There are ample margins: Serie A’s revenue from tickets, distribution, merchandising, sponsorship, and other sources is worth €2.1 billion. However, “as impressive as this is, it is only about two-thirds of that produced by the Spanish Liga (€3.3 billion) and less than half that of the British Premier League (€5.2 billion).”
- The latter is growing in value, as Chelsea’s nearly €5 billion sell-off demonstrates. Liga and Bundesliga remain firmly in Spanish and German hands. In this context, Italian football looks like an opportunity in American eyes, with the potential to increase turnover fivefold.
… including through modernisation. Digital services (artificial intelligence, blockchain data management and extraction), sports marketing and merchandising, fan-base management, and stadium development and design are viable innovation pathways.
- The ITA’s second bulletin, highlighting the need to modernise Italian football’s facilities, underscores opportunities “for US stadium and live entertainment management companies and developers,” as well as “construction companies specialised in sports and entertainment venue[s], architecture firms, suppliers of stadium and concert-based materials and products, and digital solutions for stadium security and crowd flow management.”
- Still, the bulletin warns that “decision-making processes for public approvals and investments in Italy can take longer – and involve more stakeholders – than in other markets.”
An Olympic chance. The Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games may be an opportunity for revitalisation. The ITA’s first bulletin recalls that the overseeing Foundation is supposed to have a budget of around €1.3 billion to organise the Games. Meanwhile, the Italian State will invest another billion to improve the infrastructure.
- China is especially interested in the Games, which it sees as an avenue for cooperation. Milan-Cortina 2026 follows Beijing 2022, as noted by President Xi Jinping during his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali, Indonesia, in November. The two countries “should focus” on the event to “strengthen ice and snow sports and industrial cooperation” in the sector, said a Chinese State media report.