A lot of this, not all, is about language. You make the case that university administration salaries are a large-scale drain on research at universities in the UK and Italy. I don't see how this functions as anyone holding someone or something "hostage" but I think that your particular choice of words should not obscure the point you are making.
I still disagree with you. Empire building, corporatization of university administration, and high salaries for the upper echelon of administrators are all real problems. It is just that they aren't the major factor in determining the quality or quantity of research at these institutions. Other, more important, factors are at play. Administrator's salaries and research-project funds in most Western countries come from different funding streams so decreasing money going to administrators does not increase the money funding scientists -- it might be a better deal for the public purse but it doesn't help the science.
One often hears or reads outraged commentary about the number of administrators outweighing the number of research staff at universities. But the truth is that, given the way these things are measured, a 50/50 ratio is about right. This is because "administration" usually includes everything from janitors to technicians to secretarial staff to librarians to university presidents whereas "research staff" does not include graduate students and postdocs who do a huge amount of the actual research work.
In my experience the primary factor controlling scientific productivity in universities is academics themselves when they decide who to hire into a department and when they sit on funding agency boards. Bad decisions in these roles, often resulting from nepotism, can quickly render a department unproductive. This has nothing to do with the number of overhead administrators or their salaries.
For what it is worth, the UK has historically punched above its weight in research quality. It still does. The Nature Index https://www.natureindex.com/co…rate/All/global/All/score lists the UK as 4th worldwide for the number of quality papers published in 2018. Given that the UK is nowhere near 4th in population in the developed world, this is a solid result. Italy, with about the same population as the UK stands only 12th in the number of quality papers published. Why? As far as I can determine, Italian Universities have about the same 50/50 ratio of administrative to research staff as the UK (I would be grateful if someone can dig out more on this) so it isn't that. Instead, Italy has a more closed and incestuous structure for hiring and funding. Low-producing faculty members are brought along because they are clubbable and then get stuck in the system (for instance see https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1810/1810.12667.pdf).