Timeline: How did Palermo implode?

by | Jun 30, 2019 10:31

As Palermo teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, Sam Wilson outlines how the Sicilians got into this dire scenario.

As Palermo teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, Sam Wilson outlines how the Sicilians got into this dire scenario.

Just eight years ago, Sicilian club U.S. Città di Palermo were enjoying newfound heights. The team had finished eighth in Serie A, just two points behind Juventus in seventh. The Rosanero had defeated the likes of Chievo Verona, Parma and Milan to reach the Coppa Italia Final at the Stadio Olimpico against Inter in May 2011. Palermo lost the match 3-1, but would spend the next five years struggling between Italy’s top two flights, as they aimed to regain their consistent status in Serie A.

In February 2017, after 15 years, club owner Maurizio Zamparini announced that he would be selling his majority share in the club to an Anglo-American fund with Paul Baccaglini at the helm. Baccaglini was named the club’s new President at the start of March 2017, in an agreement that would see him in temporary charge of affairs until the takeover was finalised. However, at the start of the July, the deal collapsed, with Zamparini not impressed by Baccaglini’s final offer.

Financial issues plagued the side at the start of the 2018-19 season, after the club failed to win promotion back to the top flight in the 2017-18 Serie B. Zamparini had appointed Giovanni Giammarva as president, a financial expert and administrator who the owner hoped would be able to salvage the club. In October 2018, real estate magnate Raffaello Follieri made an attempt to purchase Palermo, yet it was refuted by Zamparini.

In December of 2018, Zamparini finally left the club, after nearly 17 years at the helm. The club was sold to Sport Capital Group Investments Ltd. for a reported price of €10 and the deal was formalised on December 29. Clive Richardson, head of the investment firm, took over as the club’s owner, but would spent just over a month in charge, after he and director John Treacy left their roles at the start of February due to a disappointing January transfer market.

On February 14 2019, Valentine’s Day, there was little love felt for Palermo. Sport Capital Group Plc., the company who now owned the club after acquiring Richardson’s Sport Capital Group Investments in January, sold the Rosanero once again.

This time, a group fronted by club President Daniela de Angeli and other influential figures from within the club invested, with yet another promise that they would be saving the club from their woes and leading them into a new generation.

At the start of May, however, the club was sold to a company called Sporting Network S.r.l. and, on May 19, Palermo published a press release to state that the club had, under the new ownership, produced a €5m capital gain.

Meanwhile, on the pitch, Palermo had done enough to finish within the play-off places in Serie B, but the FIGC demoted them to last place due to financial irregularities. It was all to do with Zamparini’s rather creative accounting, selling the Palermo brand to his own purposefully-created company in Luxembourg and then renting them back to the club for practically nothing.

At the end of May, Palermo won an appeal that would keep them in Serie B, with the FIGC eventually deciding to dock the side just 20 points rather than being placed at the foot of the table. It looked as though things would eventually be alright for the Sicilian side and they would have the summer to sort financial issues out behind the scenes and finally, after years of concern, get themselves back on track.

However, on June 24 it was revealed that the club failed to get their paperwork in on time to register for the 2019-20 Serie B season. Incredibly, they claimed to have been “defrauded” by a broker who said he had worked out a deal with a Bulgarian insurance giant to provide financial guarantees, but never even contacted the company.

Now, it appears as though Palermo have well and truly self-destructed and the side’s chances of participating in next season’s Serie B, according to well-known Italian sports lawyer Mattia Grassani in an interview with ILovePalermoCalcio.com, are “equal to zero”.

If this is true, the best case scenario for Palermo is that they are allowed to reform as a Phoenix club and participate in next season’s Serie D, similar to what happened to Parma after their financial issues in the 2014-15 season and Bari a year ago. The real hard work is yet to come for the Sicilian side, but financial woes seem to have claimed yet another victim steeped in history.


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