Tuesday, 22 July 2008

the murky underworld of football club ownership

The scandal which some of you may remember from a while back (October 2006, to be precise) involving Giorgio Chinaglia, 4 Lazio capi ultrà including Fabrizio Toffolo (head of the Irriducibili), a dodgy Hungarian businessman or two and a proposed buy out of Rome's second club has reared it's ugly head once more. Last year it seemed that pressure and threats of violence had been applied to Lazio president Claudio Lotito, deeply unpopular with many of the Irriducibili since he is intent on removing all the power and privileges which his predecessor Sergio Cragnotti had granted them, in an effort to buy out the club (bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "hostile takeover"). Rumours abounded as to what lay behind the apparent consortium of buyers, and today a little more has emerged.

Ten new arrest warrants have been issued in connection with the case, all for camorristi including the boss Giuseppe Diana of the extremely powerful Casalesi clan. The idea was, apparently, to use Lazio as a massive money laundering operation for all the drug/gun/prostitution/extortion money they need to process. Diana is in fact already awaiting trial in Milan on other charges. Chinaglia meanwhile is abroad, having declined to give himself up to Italian investigators.

Lovely stuff all of this. The amount of money there is sloshing about in Italian football, this is hardly a surprise; it seems ripe for intervention by organized criminal gangs. Although frankly some of the supposedly legit owners and investors seem not so far from criminal (Matarrese, anyone?) so this is the logical next step really.

Our ownership news is that Roma's owners, Italpetroli (the Sensi family's main company, which holds just over 64% of shares in the club) have finally resolved the most pressing issue of their immense debts. The club itself is not in debt, but Italpetroli's debt is well over €300 million, chiefly to Unicredit (Banca di Roma), which was pressing for some kind of restructuring. This had led to the possibility of the club being sold, hence the presence of numerous American millionaires sniffing around. But Unicredit & Italpetroli have agreed a deal, so the Sensi family will be staying in charge. I for one am delighted, thoguh if a foreign billionaire has to come in then better George Soros than, say, Roman Abramovich or Thaksin Shinawatra. Still, I'd always rather have a bit less cash and a local family ownership than surrender to the forces of calcio moderno which appear to be advancing inexorably on us. Call me a hopeless romantic if you will.

1 comment:

Juventino said...

Who cares? It's only Lazio.