Serie A Femminile becomes professional: Background, format and how Milan could benefit

By Steph Insixiengmay -

On Tuesday, the FIGC’s general council officially ratified the motion to make Serie A Femminile a professional league. The league will have professional status starting from July of 2022.

What this means is that the players of the league will have professional status going into the 2022-23 season, and will also be professionalized by the time that the Women’s Euros rolls around.

The background

The move towards making the league a professional one has been a long time coming. Serie A Femminile’s roots date back to the 1960s. However, disinterest, neglect, prejudice, and institutional barriers prevented the league from being established. Those factors would also set women’s football in Italy back several years. Things would begin to change, however, during the summer of 2019.

During that summer, Italy participated in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The Azzurre surpassed expectations and made a remarkable run to the quarterfinals, and in the process, the country fell in love with the team. Soon, there were calls to professionalize the women’s game in Italy, including from the president of the FIGC themselves, Gabriele Gravina.

Later that year, the Italian senate approved an amendment to the Budget Law of 2020, which opened up the path of professionalism for the amateur athletes of Italy. The amendment was originally proposed by Senators Tommaso Nannicini and Susy Matrisciano and it passed into law by the senate on December 11th, 2019.

Then, on June 25th, 2020, the FIGC officially announced that the league will become professional in 2022. The Federation are now putting the gears in motion and implementing the framework needed to make this transition happen. The players and the teams of the league will now reap the benefits that come with their new status as paid professionals.

The reformation of the league

The dawn of professionalisation will usher in many new changes for the league. One of the most prominent changes will be Serie A Femminile temporarily becoming a 10-team league in the near future.

According to Ludovica Mantovania, the head of the FIGC’s women’s football division, this is being done to promote ‘competitiveness’ and as a way of maintaining ‘sustainable professionalism’.

The reduction of teams means that several squads will face the axe this season. As it stands, four teams will be relegated from Serie A Femminile this year. One of the teams at risk for this is Fiorentina, who have former Milan player Verónica Boquete playing for them, as well as current Milan loanee Valentina Giacinti.

The other three teams at risk for relegation are Hellas Verona, Lazio, and S.S.D. Napoli. The process of relegation will look different for the league’s teams next season.

The FIGC will divide next season’s league into two phases: during the first phase, the teams will face each other in home and away games, for a total of 18 matchdays. In the second phase, the teams that finish in the top five of the league’s table will gain access to the Poule Scudetto (title round), where they will compete for the title and qualification for the UEFA Women’s Champions League (a top-two finish).

The five teams that fall in the latter half of the table, will have to face each other in the Poule Salvezza (survival round), where they fight to avoid relegation. The team that finishes last in this group will be relegated, while the second to last team will have to play against the club that finished second in Serie B in a play-out to stay in the top-flight.

The five teams of each Poule will face each other in a round-robin tournament, with eight games divided into four first and second leg matches. The games will add another ten days, with two rest sessions in-between each round. In the second round, the teams will recommence with the points that they accumulated during the first round.

In total, the number of games played will increase from 22 to 28 games per season. The federation believes that by dividing the season into these two rounds, that it will help to increase the technical level of the competition. Playing more matches will also help the players maintain match fitness, which will not only improve their overall health but will also help them be competitive in other competitions (e.g. the Champions League, international qualifiers, etc.)

In addition to honing a competitive edge, the league’s players will also benefit from these changes in other ways. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the league’s players, like most other people, suffered the effects of this crisis.

However, unlike most other workers, they could not file for unemployment. This is because Italy’s laws prevent amateur athletes from filing for certain forms of assistance, as only the ‘professional’ athletes could claim these benefits. Now, the players of Serie A Femminile will be able to file for this form of assistance if need be.

In addition to this, they’ll also receive other benefits, including in the form of healthcare, maternity leave, and pensions. Certain players will also most likely be offered an increased salary to keep them at their respective clubs. These are all the things needed to ensure that these athletes can make a living from football and focus on their craft without these former impediments becoming a burden that is too much to bear.

How Milan could benefit 

In some ways, it will be easier for Milan to adjust to professionalisation than the other teams in the league. The Rossoneri already pays pensions for their women’s team and they are currently the only team in Italy to do so. Now, other teams in the country will follow suit.

The government has promised to aid the teams in this endeavour by providing them relief in the form of tax cuts. What this means is that, if a team chooses to pay benefits for their players, then they won’t have to pay it back to the government. An example: if a team pays €8,000 in benefits, which is the maximum amount each team can provide for a single player, then they will get an €8,000 tax exemption in return.

The top-flight’s squads will also benefit from shedding the current financial constraints. At the moment, Italian law states that the amateur athletes in Italy can only be paid a maximum of €30,000 a year. With professionalisation, these restraints will be loosened, as the teams will be allowed to pay competitive salaries that are on par with the best teams in Europe. This will allow them to attract the best talent domestically and from abroad as well.

The Serie A Femminile teams will also be able to spend more on transfer fees, thus allowing them to bring players of a higher quality to the league. The Rossonere have already brought in a few quality players this season, including Laura Giuliani, Laia Codina, and Alia Guagni.

Now that they are no longer under the financial constraints imposed by their formerly amateur status, they can continue to invest in the squad by bringing in more players that will truly make Milan a competitive team.

Currently, the team is estimated to spend between €800,000 to €850,000 on their women’s team. They can now spend a lot more on them. If Milan is serious about their women’s project, then they will rise to the occasion and make the necessary investments needed to not only make the team competitive in Italy, but also a true force in Europe. Time will tell all and reveal just how serious they are about the Rossonere.

In the meanwhile, Milan are currently training for their Coppa Italia qualifier this weekend. The team will take on Juventus this Sunday in the second leg of their two-match encounter. The game will be played at the Vinovo in Torino and kickoff time will be at 12pm CEST.

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