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By ESPN Staff
Feb 4, 2007

Italian business counting the cost of shutdown

ROME, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The temporary shutdown of Italian soccer is not just depressing fans in this football mad country but also spells big business losses for a sport that has become a money machine.

From advertising to clothing, television rights to ticket sales and sponsorships to legal betting, Italian soccer rakes in estimated revenues of up to 6 billion euros ($7.8 billion) a year.

That is nearly 0.5 percent of GDP and the money stream has picked up speed since Italy won the World Cup last year.

But none of it was flowing in this weekend after authorities indefinitely suspended all soccer following the death of a policeman during fan rioting at a top flight match in Sicily on Friday. There is no indication when soccer will resume.

Some recent estimates say Italy's Serie A division alone has a market value of about 1.4 billion euros, second only to England's Premier League.

A study by the Deloitte consulting firm last year said some 44 million of Italy's 58 million people, or some 76 percent of the population, are interested in soccer, 31 million of them are fans and some 14 million go to the stadiums.

Live television soccer broadcasts total some 1,500 hours a year, drawing an average of four million viewers. Nine million Italians read a daily sports paper.

That is not all. Italians also put their money where their heart is.

They have about 340 million euros of their money invested in shares of Italy's three listed soccer teams - Roma, Lazio and Juventus.

All the figures amount to an advertising salespersons dream, and, if it stops or slows down, a revenue nightmare all around, extending to the government tax coffers.

Agipronews, a news agency specialised in betting news, says the government will lose 3.1 million euros in tax revenues from legal betting every weekend where there are no games.

Betting houses lose 5.9 million euros of business every weekend without soccer.

The agency says Italians bet about 30 million euros each weekend on soccer, about 70 percent of it on Italian teams and the rest on foreign sides.