The Lega Pro, Italy’s third tier, will be renamed Serie C from next season, the league’s president Gabriele Gravina has confirmed, in a move that is aimed to restore the league’s identity.
“We were born as Serie C and, most importantly, fans and supporters still call us by our original name – it’s our identity,” Gravina said. In an interview a few days before the assembly, the president added that “It’s called the Lega Pro but during matches everyone calls it Serie C, so what’s the problem if we call it Serie C again? We are consistent and direct with our supporters.”
It was Gravina himself who put forward the proposal to rename the league at the league’s last assembly, which took place in the league’s headquarters in Florence, and clubs voted unanimously in favour. The move is likely to be overwhelmingly popular with fans as well: in a recent poll by the Gazzetta di Parma, 95% on supporters were in favour of the league being called Serie C rather than Lega Pro.
Italy’s third tier has been known as the Lega Pro since the league was reformed in 2008, but has historically been known as Serie C. It was a single league up until 1978, made up of 60 teams split into three groups, when it was divided into two separate leagues (Serie C1 and Serie C2).
Further reforms followed in 1991 (reducing the number of groups in Serie C2 from four to three), 1993 (introduction of play-offs and play-outs), 2008 (renaming to Lega Pro), 2011 (reducing the number of groups in the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (formerly Serie C2) from three to two) and 2012 (merging the Lega Pro Prima Divisione and Seconda Divisione together into a single league made up of three groups).
Gravina is aware though that there are serious problems facing Serie C clubs, which won’t be solved simply by renaming the league. In reality, there are inherent issues with clubs overspending to try to reach the promised land of Serie A, with catastrophic consequences for those who fall short.
“There’s a problem with the system, with the balance of resources, of sport politics, and we need to question this,” Gravina explained following the assembly. The president highlighted that “of the four clubs promoted to Serie B [in 2015/16], two are in the play-offs and one has been automatically promoted to Serie A, while of the four who are relegated from Serie B, three normally fold.”