Italian soccer clubs sign 6 billion euro television deal

MILAN Wed May 7, 2014 3:55pm EDT

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MILAN May 7 (Reuters) - Italy's Serie A soccer clubs have signed a contract with Swiss-based agency Infront that guarantees them at least 6 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in income from television rights for the next six seasons, Infront said on Wednesday.

Infront will now negotiate a deal with the television companies for the rights to broadcast matches, which are shared between clubs and make well over half of their annual income.

In the next few days, Infront, which has held the contract since 2009, will set up packages of rights that will be sold through a tender process, it said in a statement.

"We are aware that we face big challenges but we are certain we will achieve the goals we have set ourselves," Infront Italy Chairman Marco Bogarelli said in the statement.

In the 1990s Italy's showcase Serie A was widely seen as the most attractive league in Europe, but it now suffers from chronic crowd violence, half-empty stadiums, racism and deteriorating performances by its teams in European competitions.

Mediaset, the TV company of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who also owns Serie A club AC Milan, and Sky Italia, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, are expected to make offers for the rights.

The sports Pay-TV unit of the Al Jazeera network could also be interested in the rights, according to reports in Italian media. ($1 = 0.7183 Euros) (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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