Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 3)

OK, so here is another section of quotes that I’ve translated from Walter Campanile’s various interviews, this time from the press conference itself. Again it must be said that if any sense at all is lost from the translation then sorry, but there is no malicious intent in any linguistic fuck ups I make. And in any case, this is mainly for my benefit, so screw you. If you want to get hot off the press Italian news then learn the bloody language yourself. Below is a more up-to-date vision of what they feel the organisation should be about, with the original Italian here, for those of you who wouldn’t mind helping me out a bit. Meanwhile, if you’re at all interested in the structure of the APASR then why not take a look at the informative slides from the conference?

In what concrete way do you want to contribute to the growth of Roma and how does the current owner feel about that?
Mario Sacchi of Envet: The objective of the association is to assist and support the club. It’s evident that we will have to invest in the club, as a minority, obviously.

Is there a representative of the club here? Was one invited? Was the project presented to the club?
(There are a couple of sentences here that I literally cannot make head nor tail of: how depressing – Ed). In Europe we have clubs that were born as sporting clubs in which the member is a ‘socio’ (a member in the true sense of the word – Ed) and they developed on this model. At Hamburg for example, they didn’t need an azionariato, but the association ‘Friends of Hamburg’ nourishes the fan base, helps in the life of the club and of the supporters, and it also brings together thousands of members. Arsenal isn’t in the hands of their fans, but a group has a minority interest that doesn’t change the life of Arsenal, but it gives consent to the participation from and the involvement of those who care about the club. Roma is undoubtedly the object of this project.

Walter Campanile: We invited everyone here today, representatives of Roma and of the institutions. Their non presence doesn’t bother me because as yet we haven’t done anything. I’m sure that the work that we do will eventually be appreciated. Already, with regards to the number of members, we have overtaken Arsenal. This, we still repeat, is only a point of departure. We only want to participate and contribute to the management of the club. To let us help Roma, only that. Like Ranieri’s Roma, we also have to work off the pitch one step at a time. A note to the fans: all fans demand maximum effort from their players, so we mustn’t hold back when there is the opportunity to do something concrete.

How come there are no representatives from Roma here?
There are some (It’s clear who they are; they didn’t make themselves known at the time – Ed). We  have already opened the channels of dialogue and have invited everyone. I’m available to go anywhere to talk about our project.

Is Angelini one of your members? (Note: you might remember from my first post on this subject that pharmaceutical magnate Francesco  Angelini has been wildly rumoured to be interested in buying the club. This has caused many to think that the APASR was a front for various high-profile people to buy it from the Sensis, of whom more later)
Walter Campanile: No.

Will the money collected from members go to the club’s transfer market budget?
By law the money cannot go in the pockets of our associates. Just to be clear there will be specific body that will decide how the money is spent, and it will be possible to verify that through the balance sheet. If come the second year you become disillusioned you will be able to leave and not have to pay the money again. Transparency is guaranteed.

As we saw in the previous post, the group want to contribute financially to the club, with a minority say in what happens, and with the ain – in the short-term at least – of being little more than a community hub for fans. There appears to be a lot of talk about socios, but the comparison with those clubs is moot, as they are owned by their own communities and critically, they elect the people who run the club. This isn’t to say what happens at these clubs is perfect; Lord knows you only have to put in the occasional cursory glance at Sid Lowe’s Spanish football articles to know that the political machinations at Real Madrid in particular can get pretty ugly, frankly I’d be hoping that whatever does become of this project stays as far away from the ugliness that is Real Madrid as possible.

What happens to any money invested however, is another discussion altogether. Last week Roma’s owner Rosella Sensi had a meeting with Italian bank Unicredit regarding Italpetroli’s €400million plus debt, of which €300million is owed to them. Let’s just say that the meeting didn’t go well. ‘While Roma are flying on the pitch and dreaming of the Scudetto, off it the future of the club remains in doubt’, says Il Tempo (which appears to be a subsidiary of Il Sole 24 Ore, who basically invented the story about APASR that I mentioned above – we’ll skip over that for the time being). Why? well, Unicredit are 49% shareholders in Italpetroli (the company that indirectly controls Roma, remember) and are calling for the cancellation of the debt repayment plan and an  injunction on 13 Sensi assets, for various business-y reasons, including not communicating the company’s net asset value (regarding the 2008 balance sheet) in time. In 2008 the group lost €33million, and if 2009’s losses add up to more than €17million they will have to reduce capital, and as the Sensi’s don’t have any other solutions, Unicredit are adamant that assets must be sold.

The paper finishes: ‘The alternative is a recapitalisation, in which the bank would be ready to participate, but it would probably not gain a majority consensus from the shareholders. When thinking about the sale of assets thoughts shouldn’t go to Rome, the jewel in the group’s crown, made even more appetising in the last few months by on the pitch results that will probably take them into the Champions League next year. If the Sensis do have to give up the club, pharmaceutical magnate Francesco Angelini remains a credible potential buyer, and will be following the story with interest.’

No mention of our boys and girls in the Azionariato Popolare AS Roma yet. Maybe in time.

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Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 2)

Ok, so the other day I said that I would be chucking some quotes up here from the press conference and hopefully from a chat with the man himself, Walter Campanile. Well he was in Brussels yesterday chatting with EU big wigs so there was no point trying to get a lengthy discussion going, especially when I’m going to want him to repeat 90% of his answers at least twice. However, I have managed to dig up some quotes of his from back on 24 November last year, when he spoke with a Roma fans site about how the structure of the trust is going to work (NOTE: please bear in mind that any translation may not be 100% accurate, or may lose some of its meaning; contrary to popular belief meaning is not replicated exactly in every language, so just deal with it. The full Italian version is here for those of you who are able to read the language or just fuddy duddy killjoys who want accurate sourcing and that.):

A what point are you in the project?

I’m wary of looking too far ahead. We haven’t yet made Roma fans aware of what the azionariato popolare might be when it comes to pass.

What do you mean?

There are those who believe it to be some kind of subscription scheme, but if it was like this those who live in Saudi Arabia or Argentina would not have any reason to participate. When would they ever see Roma at the Olimpico? Instead, through our project whoever is able to contribute economically will strengthen our club, and from everywhere in the world.

Ok, but in what timescale?

The azionariato popolare doesn’t exist in Italy, in the sense that there is no legislative frame which inspires it. Anyway, in this early phase we have worked to understand if the model used in other countries could be applicable here in Italy.

We imagine so.

Exactly. In fact, that’s what we found and what will be explained later. We also occupied ourselves identify the legal entity that will represent fans based in Rome. (Ed’s note: this bit here is the bit I’m least sure about, linguistically speaking, if anyone wants to offer me a better translation please do.)

Are you not thinking of having a board of trustees (again)?

Of course, but not right away. Our scope to start with will be to get the fans to take an active part in the running of the azionariato, and having a representative in the board will be the next move.

What’s the next stage?

Between December and January we will look to have 80 people from the world of AS Roma involved with us. It will be them, in February, who will form a Constituent Assembly that will busy itself with writing the trust charter, on which the fundamental principles of the azionariato popolare romanista will be written. A month after that, if we are on schedule, we will be able to form the legal structure that will deal with whoever the owner of Roma is.

What characteristics will it have?

It will be democratic, absolutely transparent and not for profit, just as Supporters Direct, the organization that works for Uefa and who assists trusts with the legal support of Cleary Gottlieb, suggested to us.

Then, you said, the rendezvouz with whoever owns the club in March.

We still need to find an interlocutor who will open the door for us.

Even if it’s the Sensis?

The project is independent. It’s not important to us who the owner is.

But if it’s the Sensis you might end up delivering some money in a closed envelope a family who financially are in substantial trouble.

I understand where it might go. Ours isn’t a collective like that of Sistina in the 60s. The management of funds won’t be a fan, not of the presidente of the club.

So you’re saying that it would be fine for you whoever owns the club. Even Angelini?

Absolutely. I repeat: we are happy to support whoever is disposed to help make Roma great again.

This interview (despite being a couple of months out of date) is interesting to me on a philosophical level: to me, surely the point of organising fans together like this is so that you can have a large, potentially majority say in what goes on at the club, rather than sort of hang around and talk to the owner, who will tell you to piss off if they don’t like what you have to say. Obviously benefits regarding unity of the fans, organising social night, tickets for foreign fans and creating an all round community for supporters of the club are all great and I heartily endorse them. Obviously it’s early days yet so what form the relationship with the club takes is still up for grabs, but personally I’d like to see a big enough groundswell of support that would eventually put the ownership and the running of the club into the hands of an elected body.

At the press conference they made plenty of allusions to Barca and the Spanish socio model, but that works on the principle of ownership, of a democracy that has real power, or at least as much real power as those running a football club can ever have (This is Italy mind you, where Rome’s mayor, the fascist Giovanni Alemanno made explicit reference to the authorities not letting Lazio get relegated, so maybe I’m underestimating that a bit.). Without that true stake in the club where is it going, and where does the money go once in the hands of the club?

I’ve got a few things still needing translating, including a video interview of Walter talking to a journo after the press conference and some of the question and answer session that was held after the presentation. We also have the results of the Sensi family’s meeting with Unicredit, which was yesterday, so all in all anyone who might be reading will have a bumper amount of content coming you way over the next week or so. After that? Well, who knows readers, who knows.

There are people who take it for some kind of subscription scheme.

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.