Tom Rowland on the sorry state of affairs at Parma FC
Tom Rowland on the sorry state of affairs at Parma FC.
What a sad, sad day for Italian football as Parma were declared bankrupt.
It is a stark reality of the financial issues within Italian football that a club of Parma’s stature has found itself in this perilous position.
The warning signs have been constant throughout the season, on the back of what was one of their best campaigns of recent times, qualifying for the Europa League under Roberto Donadoni’s tutelage.
Indeed this was the start of the end for Parma. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) refused to grant the club a license to play in Europe due to failing to pay tax.
After being denied European competition, filled by Torino who performed admirably in the Europa League, president Tommaso Ghirardi resigned and put the club up for sale. Since then the club have been in free-fall.
Wages of players and the coaching staff haven’t been paid, not to mention other backroom staff at the club. They were docked one point in Serie A.
Come December the club was sold in a shroud of mystery. Reports were Albanian businessman Rezart Taci was in control; others stated a Russian-Cypriot conglomerate. In the coming months no one really knew who was in charge and where any money was going to come in from.
The escalation of problems continued and in January Antonio Cassano left the club after cancelling his contract. Several other players also left. By this point Parma were adrift at the bottom of Serie A as players and performances reflected off field issues.
In February the club was sold once again for €1, this time to Giampietro Manenti. He said the club finances would soon be sorted. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be.
Instead the bailiffs turned up and started taking assets from computers to gym equipment to the dressing room benches. Failing to pay for electricity bills and policing at home matches and transport costs for away trips, they were forced to postpone the Udinese and Genoa encounters.
Fans marched to the Stadio Ennio Tardini and put signs up saying “Closed for a robbery”. Parma were then docked a further two points for payment failures.
If it couldn’t get any worse then this week Manenti was arrested on charges from embezzlement to money laundering along with 21 other people. This was days before the club’s hearing in which lasted all of ten minutes and were declared bankrupt.
How could it have come to this?
Parma, a club of nostalgia for their 90s heyday with the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo and Gianfranco Zola to name a few, their UEFA Cup triumphs and their near miss at the Scudetto and to James Richardson’s Football Italia, Parma captured many hearts and minds.
But their current debts of over €213 million weren’t scrutinised by the FIGC and action was never taken to help the club. One wonders if they weren’t allowed to play in Europe, how were they able to play in Serie A?
Parma have been given €5 million to help complete the Serie A season to keep some kind of dignity to the final league standings – they’re currently bottom on nine points, Cesena in 19th are on 21 points.
But with bankruptcy confirmed they will begin life in Serie B next season should they pay some of their debt back. If not, then they will be dropped to Italy’s fourth tier.
It is hard to accept the fate as this sorry situation could have been avoided if the system was in better shape and provided more support. The same fate fell of Siena last season, among several Italian clubs over the last few seasons. Unfortunately for the authorities to wake up and for a wider audience to take note, a proud, reputable club of Parma’s side has had to take the fall for all to watch in despair.
If lessons aren’t learned, this will continue to be a current theme of Italian football. For one positive to come from Parma’s heartache, let it be reform to make sure clubs are financially stable, so fans can enjoy and support their clubs without worry, as it is them that are hit hardest.
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