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Will Bologna’s new year be a happy one?

Bologna have been somewhat bipolar over the past 6 months. The players have not been paid since the club was taken over in June despite constant promises from – now former owner – Sergio Porcedda, and the club has been on the verge of bankruptcy. However, on the pitch they are having a season unmatched in recent years. A new owner – Massimo Zanetti – has come in to bail the club out of some financial dire straits and it looks like the players received their pay in time for Christmas. While things are looking rosy for the moment, there are some further issues to be resolved from past owners. The instability witnessed here is far from an isolated incident and the financial situation of a number of clubs in Italy leaves much to be desired.

At the end of June the Menarini family were forced to sell their 80% stake in Bologna after being caught making contact with Luciano Moggi to discuss the appointment of a new director of football. The man who took on the stake was a certain Sergio Porcedda, he started his reign with lofty promises of wanting to “take Bologna to Europe” and offered the hope of safety and signings. The summer’s business was carried out in an efficient and discrete manner. All was well until on the eve of the season’s first game he decided to sack manager Franco Colomba, citing differences in opinion between the board and manager. Bologna defied the odds the following day and held Inter to a 0-0 draw in their season opener, treble winning Inter were held to a draw!

Since that the situation has been far from a fairytale, the players have made numerous complaints regarding the lack of pay and the club has been docked a point for failing to pay taxes. They had also been unable to pay for transfers – Ramirez from Penarol – and the players had not been paid for 5 sorry months. They hadn’t seen a single penny since Porcedda bought his majority stake in June. The players showed their reasonable displeasure at the situation by launching legal proceedings against the club, this could have resulted in the players having their contracts rescinded.

It wasn’t just the players who were concerned with the status-quo. In November a group of ultras turned up at Bologna’s training ground with the intention of running Porcedda out of the city, they issued a statement asking that he leave the club, sell up, leave the city and never return or else. More recently the fans left a coffin with a message reading “enough pigs now” (a word play on the owner’s name) and a pigs head were left outside the club’s headquarters. Sergio, had more than outstayed his welcome. The fans actions have not been fickle knee jerk reactions to poor results on the field, they are a genuine concern for the long term state of the club.

Perhaps coach Alberto Malesani has been able to use the turbulent surroundings to instill a siege mentality to produce good results from a rotten situation. Bologna currently sit in 14th place comfortably above the relegation zone and have won 5 out of their last 10 games. This is a remarkable improvement on the past few seasons’ performances. Since they returned to Serie A in 2008 they have finished in 17th place on two consecutive occasions, having to save themselves on the final day of the 2009/09 season with Marco Di Vaio scoring 23 of the teams 43 goals that season. Mid table mediocrity would be a Bologna fan’s wet dream right now.

The club appeared to be on the verge of bankruptcy, a fate that has sadly befallen some of the big boys in the past decade – Fiorentina and Napoli – and one which Bologna experienced not long ago in 1993. This is not an isolated case, clubs have been constantly going bust at all levels and it isn’t a trend that appears to be slowing down soon.

Messina in Serie D are hanging by a thread, struggling to find someone to fund their regional football, if they miss another game (they’ve failed to do so for 3 games so far). Catanzaro have had a case similar to Bologna’s whereby they have begun legal proceedings and staged a protest during their game against Pomezia, when the referee blew the whistle to start the game the Catanzaro players sat down on the pitch for a minute. Numerous clubs are thrown out of leagues at the annual AGMs (5 from Lega Pro last season), which provides further back up for this considerable concern.

Bologna were saved from the indignation of another bankruptcy last week when the owner of coffee company Segafredo – Massimo Zanetti – bought the entire club from Porcedda and the Menarini family. Italian singer and Bologna fan Gianni Morandi was installed as an honorary president, and has contributed around €500,000 to the project. The players it would appear will be paid very soon, but the now hated Sergio Porcedda will remain within the current infrastructure at the club so the fans should approach the current board with a great deal of caution. For Bologna it may be a case of a merry christmas, but it could be a far from happy new year.

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