panorama  › Football 24

Parma FC has been sold but the owner is hiding behind Albanian linked figureheads

by Gianni Dragoni

Parma Football Club has been sold, but little is known about the new owner, who is hiding behind figureheads and professionals with links to Albania. The person pulling the strings behind the scenes could be the Albanian oilman, Rezart Taçi. Or maybe the new owner is a mysterious Cypriot company funded by Russian investors. Or maybe it is somebody else.

What we know is that Parma’s soccer team– which used to belong to Parmalat’s former boss Calisto Tanzi, and which collapsed following its parent company's meltdown– is once again on the ropes. It is stuck at the bottom of the Serie A ranking, with only 6 points after 15 games, a one-point penalty in the pipeline and other two points that could be trimmed due to the overdue payments of taxes and of its own footballers’s salaries.

The current owner, Tommaso Ghirardi – who took over Parma F.C. from Parmalat in January 2007– has just announced that his company, Brescia-based Eventi Sportivi Spa, sold its Parma F.C. controlling-interest shares. Nobody knows who purchased them; but as a matter of fact, the club has a brand new executive management team. The new president is Pietro Doca, a Piacenza-based jeweller of Albanian descent. The vice-president is a lawyer, Fabio Giordano, who is also Mr Taçi’s trusted legal advisor.

Why so many mysteries? Where does the money used to buy Parma come from? The president of Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio, said that the transaction is under scrutiny by the Federation's transparency commission.

However, transparency is exactly what is missing in the whole affair. Only by bringing about some clarity on the investors it will be possible to establish that this was not a money laundering scheme.

Parma was already in dire conditions during 2013 football season. To avoid plunging into the red, the club’s former president Tommaso Ghirardi engaged in a large dog-and-pony show: Parma’s brand and its contract with an advertising company were spun off and given to a new entity, Parma Fc Brand LLC. But the new company was itself owned by Parma FC’s proprietor, Eventi Sportivi. In other words, Parma has given its brand to a firm belonging to its owner– and Ghirardi sold the brand to himself.

In the club’s books, therefore, there was a €30.7 million fictional capital gain, as Ghirardi had pretended to sell a brand without actually receiving any money. The bottom line was that the company’s loss was officially limited to €3.2 million, but the debts had actually increased over one year, from €136 to €175 million. The club’s worth was in fact about €45 million, and it had €43.5 million to pay in salaries.

Parma’s next game is going to be versus Naples, on December 18. Maybe president Doca and vice-president Giordano will be in the stadium. But the owner will probably be still nameless.