Is this the end for one of Europe’s elite?
In an uncertain world football continues to be for most the great constant.
Win, lose or draw we take our clubs existence for granted; that weekly escape from the rigours of working life, that relationship that seems eternal despite year after year of pain and disappointment. As fans we take great solace from the fact that regardless of how much we moan about our respective teams, we are largely safe in the knowledge that they will be there for us year after year.
Yet fans of two times UEFA Cup champions Parma aren’t quite as fortunate as that. The Italian club, who finished 6th last term, had to call off yet another match last weekend after failing to pay electricity and stewarding bills. One of Europe’s most decorated clubs now faces a desperate fight to secure its very survival.
So how did it come to this?
Parma’s demise has been brought about by a period of gross financial mismanagement. In the last 12 months alone the club has already seen three different sets of owners, none of which have had the apparent financial clout to turn around the clubs obvious troubles. UEFA’s decision to suspend the club from European competition last year should have been the wake up call for those in charge of the Italian game, but the escalating crisis appears to have fallen on death ears.
In his most recent press conference, current captain Alessandro Lucarelli gave a rather frank assessment of the current state of Parma FC:
“We asked in vain for help from the governing bodies for the situation here, it’s not a question of money because we would even have put the funds for the trip to Genoa,” Lucarelli said. “No one called us apart from the players’ and managers’ associations. No one from the federation bothered themselves to come and see what is happening here. That’s why we’re not playing.”
“Don’t think that it was easy for us to say that we’re not playing Sunday, because for us playing was the only thing left, there’s nothing else here. If Parma have got to this point it’s because someone let it. We’re not fighting just for us. Parma’s voice at this moment is the voice also of other small clubs because the current rules don’t look after anyone.”
The saga has in the last few days taken yet another bizarre twist with the local mayor reportedly putting the club up for auction himself. As reported by Football Italia, it is claimed that Federico Pizzarotti has made this last ditch move in an attempt to the avoid the igmoniny of his city’s club folding this season. The club President Giampietro Manenti though has reacted angrily to these attempts to sell the club behind his back, launching the following reposte on the clubs website:
“If someone is seriously interested in buying the club, they can speak to me or to the professionals who work for me,” reads the statement.
“Parma’s mayor Federico Pizzarotti is not the owner of Parma FC and he has no mandate whatsoever to broker the sale of the club.”
The future for Parma appears increasingly uncertain, even recent shows of financial solidarity fail to address the long-term needs of the club. Unless a buyer can be found to rescue the near bankrupt outfit, the only feasible option is for the current club to fold and reform as a completely new entity. Not only would this mean climbing the divisions from the very bottom, but effectively the end for a club that has produced such revered names as Gianfranco Zola and Hernan Crespo.
We may believe ourselves to be immune from the financial circus that occurs in so many southern European countries, but we too would do well to heed the warnings of the current fiasco. Whether it is increased scrutiny of owners elect, or stringent to that ensure financial fair play; we clearly have a long way to go.
In an increasingly money fuelled game, a clubs very existence should remain priceless.