What We're Reading

Juventus: Business or Entertainment?

Gabriele Marcotti of The Sunday Times argues that Juventus' appeal to Italian civil court could be the final straw that forces open a serious issue that needs fleshing out in the global business of soccer. Is the game more a business, subject to all the laws of civil society, or is it more an entertainment that should governed on a smaller scale in and of itself? For those that don't know, soccer law is currently managed in the latter way, a consortium of independent clubs bound together by national soccer associations that are in turn bound together by FIFA, soccer's world governing body. The case of Juventus, however, forces us to reexamine the way we perceive the game. If Juventus is a publicly traded company on the Italian stock market, isn't it also a business? And if it is a business, shouldn't its shareholders' interests be protected under civil law? FIFA is clear that it and nobody else should govern the sport. In fact, only recently, FIFA threatened to suspend reigning European champion Greece from international competitions after the Greek government refused to pass a law ensuring that soccer matters could only be decided by the Greek soccer federation (which answers to FIFA) and not the Greek government. The Greeks quickly relented, of course, once they were faced with the prospect of a ban from international competitions. But the case of Juventus is far trickier. Surely, FIFA won't resort to kicking world champion Italy out of Euro 2008 qualifying, right? But something else will need to be done. Having exhausted the country's sporting appeals process, Juventus has now turned to the civil courts, asking them to reinstate them to Serie A and recoup some $160 million in damages. If Juve were to win its appeal, what happen? For one thing, the Italian FA would be bankrupt, but then the club would later be dropped from all competitions by FIFA. But Marcotti says, in the business world at least, Juve has a strong case. What we in the entertainment world might call match-fixing, they call "lobbying," and it's no different than that political sport of sports our politicians play so well (and so legally) here in The U.S. No money changed hands, there is no outright evidence of bribery, and no evidence that anyone acted on Luciano Moggi's requests. The club argues that it acted as a business. So what if FIFA's laws are at odds with what soccer has become?

Read the whole story at The Times Online »

Next story loading loading..