Adds expected deadline for bids

MILAN, Sept 28 (Reuters)Italy’s top flight soccer league has lost more than 500 million euros ($583 million) in revenues due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the head of Serie A said on Monday, warning the industry was in dire straits.

To contain COVID-19 contagion, Italy’s government has rejected a proposal to allow more spectators at sporting events, including lifting the current limit of 1,000 spectators at Serie A football matches to fill a quarter of stadium capacity.

“As of now, Serie A is experiencing a shortfall of more than 500 million euros”, Serie A Chief Executive Luigi De Siervo told state television, blaming a lack of matchday revenue and a drop in sponsorship deals.

“The whole system is on the verge of collapse,” he added, calling on the government to consider gradually increasing the cap on football fans at matches.

Matchday revenues account for around 11% of Serie A clubs’ 2.5 billion euro aggregated yearly revenues, whose bulk is made up by broadcasting right sales.

But this source of income is also shrinking because broadcasters around the world respond to lower advertising revenues by cutting spending on media right deals.

In an effort to cushion the impact of the pandemic on debt-laden clubs, Serie A is considering selling a minority stake in a newly created company handling the League’s broadcasting rights for 10 seasons.

Two rival private equity consortia led by CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital are vying for a 10% stake.

Serie A expects to receive final offers for its media rights by Oct. 2, two sources said on Monday, flagging an extension of a previous Sept. 30 deadline.

The Serie A clubs are expected to meet on Oct. 9 to review the bids, the sources added.

De Siervo had said earlier that the clubs would meet by Oct. 10 at the latest to discuss the offers. ($1 = 0.8578 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Elisa Anzolin and Clara Denina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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