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Soccer summit Milan concludes with 'optimism' on financial troubles
1.4 || Seamus

MILAN, Italy (AP) A soccer summit on how to rescue Italy's financially struggling soccer clubs declared there was reason for optimism but yielded few results.
Franco Carraro, president of the Italian Soccer Federation, said that the parties involved agreed that government intervention was not the answer.

Last week, the government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, himself a team owner, dropped an emergency tax plan that would have allowed clubs to roll their income tax arrears over a five-year period, staving off projected bankruptcy for several clubs.

Italian clubs owe an estimated ?500million (US$620 million) in delayed payments to the state, including income and other taxes.

The tax break plan, which had been backed by Berlusconi, met widespread opposition from lawmakers, who suggested that the teams slash players' huge salaries.

Berlusconi is also president of current Serie A leader AC Milan.

"We agreed that, politically, support does not exist" for such a plan, Carraro said after Monday's meeting, which gathered federation officials, league officials and players and coaches associations' representatives at a Milan hotel.

The federation should try to "establish clear and transparent rules that could be put in place at its next meetings," Carraro said. "The situation allows us to be optimistic. The federation never asked for state financing."

Carraro said that one possible way out would be relegating clubs that are unable to meet newly imposed financial requirements or fail fiscally to a lower division under a new name.

This proposal "needs to be examined," Carraro said.

In 2002, former top club Fiorentina failed financially and was dismantled and forced to restart under a new name and management in Serie C2, Italy's fourth division. The club eventually regained the rights to its old name and is now near to being promoted back into Serie A.

Associated Press
Mar. 29, 2004 10:44 a.m.

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