Parma Calcio 1913: The club that just won’t die

We’ve all heard about the bankruptcy of Parma FC. In March 2015, I Crociati were burdened with debts of around 200 million euro and hadn’t paid their players for months. The club was declared bankrupt but still finished the season, albeit in last place. What led to their second bankruptcy and how have they fared since? Yes, second. In 10 years.

A sunny autumn afternoon at the Ennio Tardini, the home base of Parma Calcio 1913 for 92 years now. The players, still led by captain Alessandro Lucarelli, head over to the Curva Nord to thank the Boys Parma for their support during the 3 – 1 victory over FC Legnago Salus. The first half was marked with several good opportunities for Parma through Lauria, Baraye and Melandri. We would seem to hit the dressing rooms after a goalless first half but right before the half-time whistle I Crociati get a free kick right on the edge of the area which is brilliantly swept home by Ciccio Corapi. A deserved 1-0 lead at half time.

Parma Calcio's players took to the pitch with 'Forza Longo' written on their t-shirts, supporting injured player Longobardi.
Parma Calcio’s players took to the pitch with ‘Forza Longo’ written on their t-shirts, supporting injured player Longobardi. © Parma Calcio Twitter account

The start of the second half sees a revival of Legnago with a couple of good opportunities and a disallowed goal for offside. True or not? No idea, this is Serie D. Parma is feeling the tension rise up and cannot afford to lose points again after last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Virtus Castelfranco. A sign for trainer Apolloni to switch things up; Rodriguez leaves the field for Sereni which lets Parma play in a more attacking 4-3-3. It pays off. A smart through ball from Baraye sets Corapi up for a one-on-one with goalie Cibulko and he slots home his second of the day. From then on, Parma controls the game and sees Musetti tack on the 3-0 about five minutes before the game ends. Legnago makes it 3-1 from a free kick shortly before the end of the game to deny Fall a clean sheet. Parma Calcio are currently atop their group in the Serie D with 33 points out of 13 matches, four points ahead of Altovicentino.

The dairy grind

Let’s take it back a bit. after WW II, Parma never left the lower divisions and came in turmoil in the late 60’s, before being declared bankrupt in ’68. One year later, Parma merged with A.C. Parmense, who just won promotion to the Serie D. This meant that they could keep on using the sporting license and year of formation. For the next two decades, Parma steadily climbed the Italian competitions, albeit with the necessary drawbacks. In 1990, Parma finally won the promotion to the Serie A and the success attracted the attention of dairy corporation Parmalat. Investments from their part made sure I Crociati kept their place in the highest tier and even won European cups against Antwerp and Marseille and three Coppa Italia’s under the reign of Nevio Scala and later on Carlo Ancelotti. It didn’t last: in 2004, Parmalat collapsed with debts of 20 billion euro and ‘fraudulent activity’ (Italy, anyone?) worth over 10 billion euro, combined with a 167 million euro loss by the club. Parma FC was put under special administration for the time being, but had to be dissolved.

ParmaAntwerp
Parma’s captain Minotti scores the first goal in the 3-1 win over Royal Antwerp in the 1993 Cupwinners Cup final at Wembley. © Unknown

Rebirth revisited

The club reformed in 2004 and got bought out of the special administration by Tommaso Ghirardi in 2007. A spell of Claudio Ranieri initially kept Parma FC out of the Serie B, but the season after, they relegated out of the top flight after 18 years straight. After one year of Serie B it was Francesco Guidolin who forced the promotion with a second place finish. Three years later, it was coach Roberto Donadoni that lead Parma to a sixth place finish and – finally – a return to the Europa League. But that’s when things took a turn for the worse, again. Income tax on the players salaries wasn’t paid and the club’s UEFA license was cancelled and thus couldn’t compete in any European competition. This caused Ghirardi to sell his stake in Parma FC to a company in Cyprus for a mere 1 euro. At this point, the club is 200 million euro in debt. The company resold the shares to Giampetro Manenti for the same price. Manenti was arrested shortly after on allegations of money laundering and credit card fraud. It was March, Parma was last in the Serie A and players wages hadn’t been paid since last summer. Failing to clear it’s debts of 218 million euro, the club was declared bankrupt in June and forfeited the season.

Parma Calcio 1913’s new board, filled with local businessmen, their former success coach and a 25% share owned by the fans. The final recipe for success? © ESPN

Fan ownership

In July 2015, as Parma FC was forced to play under a new name in the Serie D, Nevio Scala (coach during FC Parma’s successful spell in the early 90’s) was appointed as chairman. Led by Scala, the new club is calling itself Parma Calcio 1913, after the original club’s founding year and is backed by a number of businessmen and companies, all local to Parma, from pasta production magnate Barilla to racecar manufacturer Giampaolo Dallara. The new owners installed a new core philosophy, leading to an initial 25% of the club which is fan owned. Fellow businessman Marco Ferrari added: “The failure of Parma was the failure of a patriarchal model which Italian football, nowadays, can no longer sustain. We have been inspired by a completely different model, a more German one.” Next to the fan ownership, the club will reuse its most succesful ingredient of the past: its youth academy.

Italian clubs going for German managing models. A peculiar way to describe the latest Italian Renaissance. Undoubtedly to be continued.

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