Officially, baseball is an amateur sport in Italy. But when you read the story below, you can only come to one conclusion: It is far from amateur status. It is merely a semi-pro sport. But for how long?
I bumped into an article about the construction of the Serie A1 finances. According to a spokesperson of the FIBS (Italian Baseball and Softball Federation), each team in the Serie A1 needs to pay two fees: a re-affiliation fee of 150 Euros and an entry fee of 250 Euros.
But that is not all. To make sure, the clubs are in good financial health, they must provide their financial figures and have a kind of equity of at least 20,000 Euros. This money must come from sponsors, ticket sales, and the sale of food and drinks. Of this minimum amount of 20,000 Euros, nothing can be earned back by playing in the Serie A1. The only thing the champion will get is some hardware: a cup and medals, that’s it.
Imports are the best-earning players in the league. Depending on the club they are playing for, they earn some big money varying from 35,000 – 40,000 Euros.
Italian players would make 15,000 to 20,000 Euros per year. But according to a source, hardly any Italian player has made 20,000 Euros in the past years. In most cases, not more than 10,000 Euros is paid as that amount is not exposed to tax. Most players will get nothing more than a kind of expense allowance.
Most foreigners that are acquired are from Venezuela because they are cheap. If they are acquired, the club will find them a job they can easily combine with training and playing. So a part of their income is then paid by their employer instead of the club. The same goes for some Italian players.
According to the article in money.it, the top teams in the Serie A1 have a budget of 500,000 Euros. Likely only Fortitudo Bologna with its big sponsor UniposSai is able to have a budget like that. Not only is that budget needed for paying salary but also to cover travel costs. For example, the Serie A1’s newest team, Torino Grizzlies has to travel over 700 kilometers to get to Nettuno. That is one of the reasons, doubles are played at one location during the weekends. But it may be clear that the budgets per team vary a lot.
If only one club has a huge budget thanks to a big sponsor that has some big influence on the way the flagship team is run, the competition will become rather boring as this club can hire most of the good players and win the championship almost effortlessly. Fans will turn away as the outcome of the season can be predicted in advance.
Since generating money and finding (big) sponsors is getting harder every year, the money flow slowly comes to a stop. You may wonder how long Italian baseball will be able to keep on like this.