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Triestina’s tribulations – Time is running out at the Stadio Nereo Rocco

After Relegation from Serie B last season Triestina sit a disappointing 11th place in group B of the Lega Pro first division. But the disappointments don’t end there for the Trieste based club. The coach was sacked just a few weeks ago and the owners, past and present, have allowed huge debts to accumulate, crippling the club.

Triestina: Real fans...

Triestina: Real fans...

A courthouse decision has requested that the club is declared bankrupt. It is a situation which is repeating itself over and over again up and down the Italian peninsula. Time is running out to save Triestina Calcio.

Triestina were founded in 1918 and took part in the first Serie A championship, remaining in the top flight for over two decades. Their best season came in 1948-49 when they finished joint second on 49 points together with Milan and Juventus. A return to paradise has eluded them since the 1959 but the club has seen many big names pass through, the greatest of whom is Nereo Rocco. Rocco both played and managed the club before going on to greater things at AC Milan. Rocco, one of Italy’s greatest managers, has been honoured by the club by naming the stadium after him.

Despite this illustrious early history, the club is better-known nowadays for using unconventional methods to ‘fill’ their stadium. The club cover an entire stand in a tarpaulin with people painted onto it to create the impression of home support.

Triestina: Fake fans

Triestina: Fake fans

The man at the centre of the current crisis is owner, Sergio Aletti. The owner’s arrival was heralded as the beginning of a new cycle in Trieste. He promised a project, he promised Serie A in a few seasons and a brand new stadium for the Alabardati. All of these promises, though, appear extremely unlikely to reach fruition.

On 4 January a Trieste courthouse asked for the club to be declared bankrupt, it was a decision that sent shockwaves through Trieste. The total debt stands at €6m, of which €1.4m is the IVA tax – similar to VAT in Britain. All of a sudden the club’s funds had been tied up by a public prosecutor, with portions having to be released every two weeks in order to pay for travel to away games.

The feasibility of Aletti owning a football club can be heavily questioned. Despite completing the purchase of Triestina back in August, the previous owner claims he hasn’t seen a single penny – was the money ever there?

Sergio Aletti: Unfit for ownership

Sergio Aletti: Unfit for ownership

On further inspection it also transpires that Aletti already has control of an Italian football club – while this poses potential ethical issues, this is perfectly acceptable in Italy. Aletti has been in charge of Ravenna since July 2011, and what a frightening 7 months it has been for the Emilian side. The club were involved in the calcioscommese scandal and were then thrown out of the professional game for failing to pay their league subscriptions.

In July Aletti promised – an empty promise – to revive the fortunes with his rallying call “the vultures are circling over Ravenna’s head, but they won’t find a corpse here”. Ravenna, too, though are now in dire straits and Aletti is looking to sell the Serie D club. The players haven’t been paid for four months and so many of them have left. The squad was reduced to its bare bones with just 12-13 players turning up for the post-Christmas training regime.

What on earth is happening when a man who is unable to take on the responsibility of owning 1 club is allowed to purchase 2? Aletti and his associates have maintained that the debt that is crippling the club has remained from the previous regime, but taking on the previous owner’s debt is part and parcel of buying any business.

The club have been given until 31 January to find the necessary funds to continue. A meeting has been called for today (24th January) to try and find a resolution. Aletti himself has been trying to free up funds from the club to provide a solution together with De Angelis. Whether or not this is a false dawn remains to be seen.

On the field the side have picked up just four points from their last five games, but they’ll be in the headlines for matters off the pitch in the foreseeable future.

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