Azionariato Popolare AS Roma

*Wipes away cobwebs*

A lot has changed since the last time I bothered to write anything for this godawful repository for my deteriorating brain. I now write every day for a pittance about celebrity crap, music, sport and video games, as well as do a weekly shift translating for La Gazzetta Dello Sport, and various other proofreading jobs. It pays the rent and keeps me in pizzas, so I’m not complaining, but recently the creative urge has been creeping up my spine and tickling the back of my brain, asking me why I know the intimate details of Jordan and Peter Andre’s divorce, and her subsequent marriage to a cross-dressing cage fighter and why I have done precisely nothing with the reams of stuff I have on Lodigiani, the meeting about the Tessera del Tifoso I took eight hours out of a beautiful summer’s day for and Azionariato Popolare AS Roma, which is the first real attempt in Italy for a football club run by the fans, for the fans, and which my own girlfriend is an important part of. Every now and again I get a metaphorical poke with a stick via a blog comment which arrives in my inbox, goading me to do something worthwhile with my time, anything that might give reason to halt the rapid disappearance of justification for the title of journalist with which I deign myself. Well you fucking win, ok?

This is why today I attended the official press conference that Azionariato Popolare AS Roma held to announce its presence to the world (well the Italian press at least), their vision for a brighter day in Italian football. It must also be said that aside from my own thoroughly selfish reasons for being there, I hold the idea and the people behind it in extremely high regard, and if in the long term they manage to organise Roma fans into playing a role in the democratic running of their club it will be one of biggest achivements in the history mankind. I say this as a man who has seen how hard it is for Italians to organise a meeting place and be there on time, so don’t take that lightly.

So a bit of background then. The Sensi family is currently finacially crippling the football club through their siphoning off of club money to service the €300million debt of their Italpetroli, as evidenced by the preposterously large €20million Liverpool paid for the summer transfer of Alberto ‘sicknote’ Aquilani. Usually a football club would be laughing all the way to the bank with that sort of money, but instead the fee magically disappeared into a huge black chasm. Anyone who has read The Beautiful Game? by David Conn will probably already be familiar with the sort of thing I’m talking about. Anyone tomorrow Roma president Rosella Sensi, Italpetroli and bank Unicredit will be meeting to discuss repayments of a debt that is nothing to do with the club. Got that? With this in mind APASR has sprung up, offering a different way of running a club in a country where local magnates ruling private fiefdoms is the common model, pumping in unsustainable millions while hiring and firing managers seemingly on a whim. It’s rallying call is partly for this sort of nonsense to end, but also for more fundamental change. As it says on their website (which has also been translated into English for the benefit of Roma’s worldwide fanbase):

Barcelona’s motto is ‘more than a club’, which helps explain their culture, and in thier own way, greatness. Maybe the moment has arrived to think of constructing our own future together for a Grande Roma, which could be an example in Italy and Europe and that could become, like Barcelona, more than a club.

As much as I am loath to praise Barca for their pompous slogan, their is little doubt that the socio model is the best way for a football club to be run if you’re interested in it being a force for social good.

The idea has certainly gained some traction, if the press conference was anything to go by. In fact not only were various Roma blogs reporting live from the scene, but big national newspapers like Il Messagero and La Repubblica were there (and have already produced stories for their respective online audiences), giving the movement a potentially huge boost. Having met Walter Campanile, the main man behind the scheme, and watched him deal confidently with Italy’s assembled hacks, I have to say he’s a very confident, convincing presence, prodding and cajoling any doubters, laying out the arguments and the structure of everything in detail. If he were less morally upright he’d do a fine job of selling you hooky clothes down the market, or encouraging pensioners to part with their savings because they had the cowboys in their bathroom. Mostly though, you can tell that he and his colleagues know they are right, and that they’re not about to give in to those who say ‘this can’t be done in Italy’.

It was standing room only today, partly due to the radical idea APASR is selling to the public, but also because of a furore kicked up by the press earlier in the month, when respected Naples-based business daily Il Sole 24 Ore claimed that the organisation was a front for a group of Italian celebrities who wanted to take the club from the Sensis without presenting any evidence, a story that was repeated also in La Repubblica. There had also been rumours doing the rounds that they were a front for medicinal drugs magnate Franco Angelini, which while raising the profile of the movement, presented them in an appalling light. Thankfully both of those were quickly swept out of the way.

Ah God it’s late, and in my head this post is already turning into bad facsimile of a Hunter S. Thompson screed, while the text remains resolutely tangent free (up until now at least). How much needs to be said about a press conference when the most important thing about today is an idea, one that needs pressing home and support from the wider fan base? All we’re looking at is a collection of suits and scruffily dressed photgraphers relaying the same quotes, when I’ve got access to better, original material at my fingertips. I’d already know whether we are looking at a new model of ownership or merely a union of fans that have the ear of the owners, loud but mostly powerless? Now that Roma are second in the league and doing well in the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, do the fans care enough to embrace radical change? In essence, is Roma doing well now a bad thing for the club long term?

Tomorrow we (Why I am writing this as though anyone is reading is anyone’s guess) will hopefully have some unique quotes from representives, as well as wonderfully translated stuff from all over the Italian press.

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4 Responses

  1. Nice to see this here.

    Is there any way that the Roma trust can claim a sort of long-term perspective (like MUST?) and say that irrespective of what happens in the short term with servicing this loan, that supporters are the most stable and viable long-term basis of, well, support? It seems to me that whatever the short term circs, the Sensi family will usually be able to weasel out of them, whereas something more abstract would be harder to counteract. (But also harder to enact too, I know.)

  2. That’s the plan, more or less Claude. Walter spoke at length about the Spanish socio model (hence the Barca quote), but it’s obviously a matter of getting everyone on board, getting the message out there and pushing the idea first. I think they need to be wary of not setting their stall out as an anti-Sensi option, as if Roma do end up having a successful seaons the family will no doubt be quick to oil themselves with the credit.

  3. Your italian must have come on hellishly quick to already be working as a translator. That Jordan stuff isn’t for italian publications is it?

    Gabriel Marcotti has observed that the Barca model is very culturally specific and very difficult to export, in the same way English fans all drool with envy at the German model which will turn up in our football precisely never.

  4. Christ no it’s for an English website, although I generally leave the gossip shite to the other writers if I can.

    I don’t think I’d take the word of Marcotti that seriously, to be honest. The idea that this sort of this is culturally specific is to my mind a bit of a myth, and Italians always seem to want to look at the reasons why people shouldn’t do something. Who at the start of the 80s would have imagined that something like AFC Wimbeldon could have happened, for instance, or what happened at York City a few years back? If you asked regular fans, particularly of the not big Premier League clubs and lower, an equitable system with cheaper ticket prices and standing sections is what they want. It’s not a cultrual problem, it’s a systemic one (the two things overlap slightly, of course).

    I think if you push an idea and people see the positives to it, it can work, and you’d be hard pushed to find a match going fan in Italy who isn’t sick to the back teeth of the corruption in Italian football. If anything I think the ground is very fertile for movements like this – there has been a book written on AFC Wimbledon in Italian and it was very well recieved. I’m cautiously optimistic.

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