While newspapers and social media are full of rumours about which players Inter might sign in the summer, the Nerazzurri management must take care to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations or face further sanctions. In 2015, Inter – like Roma – were punished for breaking Financial Fair Play regulations and agreed to report a maximum break-even deficit of €30 million in 2016 and no break-even deficit in 2017.
Although the club posted a loss of €59.6 million in 2015/16, there were no sanctions as the loss for the year based on the criteria established in the Financial Fair Play settlement was less than €30 million (although UEFA are still yet to confirm this). “We have a solid five year business plan for the club, which includes creating new revenue streams that will lead us to make a profit through sustainable business growth,” club CEO Michael Bolingbroke explained last October. “The club will be able to exploit great opportunities to grow and develop the Inter brand abroad, thanks to the new Suning majority shareholding and their important influence in China and the rest of Asia.”
However, despite this optimistic outlook, the club remain in a difficult financial position. According to Il Sole 24 Ore, while club sources told them that their finances are a “work in progress”, there remains a €20m-€30m hole in their balance sheet that needs to be filled before 30th June in order for them to meet their Financial Fair Play commitments.
Roma (as shown in Calcio e Finanza’s recent analysis) are likely to cash in on one of their star players in order to make up their own deficit, as they did last summer by selling Miralem Pjanic to Juventus before the start of the new financial period. This is an option that Inter may also choose to exercise, with Marcelo Brozovic the most likely candidate to be sacrificed. Last December, Brozovic signed a new contract which contains a €50 million release clause, and although this can only be triggered by foreign clubs, Miroslav Bicanic – Brozovic’s agent – recently revealed that “I can’t name names, but there are a number of English clubs following Marcelo. We’re in contact with them.”
If the Nerazzurri were to follow Roma down this path, they would have to obtain permission from the Lega to register the sale before the transfer window officially opens on 1st July. Other transfer revenue will be generated by clubs taking up options to buy players loaned to them by Inter, such as the €14 million option Sevilla have for Stevan Jovetic. Roma have already been obliged to purchase Juan Jesus for €8 million; Inter’s last financial statement revealed that if the Giallorossi were in 1st-17th place in Serie A on 1st February, 2017 or at the end of the 2016/17 season, their purchase option would become mandatory.
On the other hand, the Nerazzurri could look to sponsorship deals to help close the hole in their finances. Inter have already signed a sponsorship deal with Suning – their majority owners – to sell the naming rights to the club’s training ground and their youth facilities last December, which are now respectively known as ‘The Suning Training Centre in memory of Angelo Moratti’ and ‘The Suning Training Centre in memory of Giacinto Facchetti’.
The agreement also includes the team’s training gear, and is worth a generous €15 million. Further deals have been signed with Infiniti, Prozis, Keylog, Locauto, Manpower and Expert since Suning’s takeover, in addition to other deals relating to the club’s youth teams and with regional sponsors.
Unfortunately for the Nerazzurri, TV rights and prize money are no longer an option. The club’s woeful performances in the Europa League saw them finish bottom of Group K, losing four of their six games, and – according to Il Sole 24 Ore’s estimate – sacrifice up to €25 million in additional revenue in the process. The Nerazzurri were also knocked out of the Coppa Italia in the quarter finals; while some may not take Italy’s cup competition seriously, a recent analysis showed that winning the competition brings in just over €10 million in revenue.
Although it’s clear that Inter need to find further revenue streams to balance their accounts this summer, it’s equally clear that their options are limited. Suning are aiming to sign new commercial agreements with Asian partners, but may be forced to sell a player such as Brozovic if the partnerships don’t generate the required income. The consequences of failure? If they fail to break even, they will be fined €7 million by UEFA, and if they post a loss of more than €10 million then this would necessitate them renegotiating the Financial Fair Play settlement agreement. Further sanctions would be imposed, and would be agreed with UEFA during the renegotiation.