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16th March 2018
Prosecutors in Milan have opened an investigation into whether executives at Infront Sports & Media manipulated the Serie A rights tender for the 2015/16 to 2017/18 period. ‘We confirm that on Friday, October 9, 2015, the Prosecutor of Milan has opened a probe against Infront Italy’s Marco Bogarelli, Andrea Locatelli and Giuseppe Ciocchetti, related to an alleged contribution to undue financing practices in Italian club football and an alleged manipulation of the administrative process of the Lega Serie A media rights tender for the 2015/2016 to 2017/2018 period’, read an Infront statement.
The investigations stem from the arrest last week of Andrea Baroni on money laundering charges. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Baroni’s list of clients includes Infront, an accusation denied by the company. ‘Infront does not have and has never had any business relationship or involvement whatsoever with the Swiss consultancy company Tax & Finance and/or Mr. Andrea Baroni’, read its statement.
Swiss company Infront was the broker used by the Lega Calcio to sell its TV rights to Mediaset and Sky Italia until the 2017/18 season. It is understood that prosecutors are investigating whether the Infront executives arranged illegal payments to clubs as part of the TV rights deal – clubs are required to show healthy budgets in oder to start each season. Italian media has also reported that the Presidents of Lazio, Genoa and Bari are under investigation in connection to the inquiry. It is alleged that Genoa accepted money from Infront through Baroni; that Infront overpaid Bari to sponsor its second shirt; and that Lazio obstructed the work of investigators.
Mediaset emphasised that it had complied with the rules regarding the TV rights auction. ‘The process of assigning rights took place under the letter of the Melandri law and was organised under the supervision of the various sectors authorities, who firstly approved the guidelines and notices of the auction and subsequently reviewed and gave final approval to the outcome’, read a 13 October statement. ‘The Melandri law, as it is known, precisely aims to ensure that rights are concentrated in the hands of a single operator and ensures that the competition provided by multiple offers is, of course, balanced for the benefit of the consumer. Given the grounds for prosecution relating to collusive relations between Mediaset and Infront, we reiterate that relations between the two companies have increasingly developed dialectically and are fully transparent, in respect of the roles involved.’
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