The Growth Decree has been abolished in Italy: How will this impact on Italian football as a whole?

The Italian government has removed the Growth Decree, which was used as a tax incentive to help Serie A clubs entice big names to the Italian peninsula. How will it affect the future of Italian football?

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After four years of the law being in place, the Italian government has decided not to extended the Growth Decree, which Serie A clubs used as a way to entice players to Italian football from overseas.

The decree, which was introduced in 2020, allowed clubs to offer players salaries that were more lucrative than what they could have offered previously. It was intended to keep talented Italian footballers and coaches in Italy as well as luring skilled foreign players and coaches based elsewhere to come to Italian football.

A video published by Tifo Football on YouTube illustrated how the Growth Decree worked, how it benefitted Italian clubs as well as foreign ones, and how its removal could potentially affect Serie A clubs in the long term.

What was the Growth Decree, how did it work and what were the benefits to Italian football?

Prior to the creation of the Growth Decree, high-profile players and coaches had their salary taxed at 48%, and after its implementation, they would only be taxed at 24%. As of the 2023/24 season, 198 of the 653 players registered to play in Serie A took advantage of the tax benefit, and the clubs saved a total of €150 million.

It was beneficial in different ways. AS Roma were able to entice a high-profile coach like Jose Mourinho in 2021, and allowed them to sign a star striker like Romelu Lukaku in 2023. English Premier League clubs also benefitted as it allowed Chelsea to sell Tammy Abraham to the Giallorossi, while AC Milan have purchased the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Christian Pulisic over the years.

Georginio Wijnaldum, Tammy Abraham and Nicola Zalewski celebrate against Sampdoria. [@OfficialASRoma]

On the European front, Italian clubs improved their results. This was evident in the 2022/23 campaign, when each of the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League had an Italian finalist. Across the three competitions, there were six Italian sides in the quarter-finals.

There were benefits off the pitch too. Serie A players have gained 621 million additional followers on social media in four years, more advertisers were interested in collaborating with Italian clubs, and a club like AC Milan went from employing 145 staff members in 2018 to employing 250 in February 2024.

Why was Italian football’s Growth Decree abolished?

Since the decree was introduced, Italy has had three prime ministers: Giuseppe Conte, Mario Draghi, and Giorgia Meloni. There were modifications made to it in 2022 and they have been repealed. The Growth Decree was a law that was costing the Italian government €674m per year, and it was only benefitting 15,000 people living in Italy.

Although football is considered to be of huge importance in Italy, there is not a lot of sympathy for the clubs. Taking into account that Serie A clubs are owned by movie moguls, Italian media tycoons, Chinese conglomerates, American billionaires, and hedge funds, the consensus is that the state doesn’t need to give them extra help.

Inter’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates. [@Inter_en]

What are the potential consequences?

Removing the Growth Decree will make it harder for Italian clubs to purchase players from their English counterparts. Not only did Serie A clubs have issues paying the buyout clauses, but now they will have problems enticing players from the Premier League to move to Italy.

The huge foreign investment in England gives Premier League teams greater financial clout over their European rivals including Italian ones. With the decree no longer in place, it will be difficult for Serie A sides to bridge the gap over the English and it will likely widen it.

Despite the purchase of star names in recent years, there are clubs in Italy that continue to purchase cheap imports and make use of the tax benefits. After the Italy Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, there are greater calls for improved youth development and better integration of Italian players.

Serie A might suffer from the removal of the Growth Decree, but it might force Italian clubs to develop their own talent. Juventus have produced players like Fabio Miretti, Nicolo Fagioli, and others from their Next Gen squad, and Atalanta will be hoping to achieve similar results with their Under-23 team as Italy’s most successful talent producers.

Even if Italian clubs might suffer, the silver lining could be that Italy qualifies for the 2026 World Cup and boasts a squad that will go deep into the tournament in North America.

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