After the Parma bankruptcy fiasco two years ago, the Italian football federation (FIGC) implemented new stringent controls for any buyer wanting to acquire 10% or more of any professional Italian based club (from Serie A to the lower levels).
FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio, who insisted what happened at Parma had nothing to do with the federation, nonetheless had to react given the anger of Parma and calcio fans in general. There is no denying Parma’s demise reflected poorly on Italian football and many pundits questioned how the FIGC allowed that situation to happen and what could be done to avoid it in the future.
With that in mind, the FIGC and its member leagues want to ensure any prospective buyer is subjected to a stricter level of scrutiny compared to what others have undergone in the past. Solid finances and transparency are the orders of the day, with buyers having to disclose financial and banking qualifications within a month of purchase. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The new regulation was unanimously approved by the federation on March 26, 2015. This follows something similar done by the Football Association Regulatory Authority (FARA), who wanted to avoid what happened at Portsmouth by having an independent regulator implement stricter rules on club ownership and ensure proper vetting of club owners and directors.
Assuming the sale closes on April 14 as widely reported, the regulation stipulates that within 30 days of the sale (in Milan’s case, before May 14), the buyer (Yonghong Li and company) must provide the required documentation to the league in order for Milan to be granted a licence to continue participating in the Serie A next season.
As per FIGC official communication number 189, the purpose of the regulation is as follows:
The acquisition of shares of at least 10% of a sporting club affiliated with the FIGC and associated with one of its professional leagues (herein “acquirer”), can only be performed by those who satisfy the specific requirements of integrity and financial strength outlined in the present directive (herein “regulation”). In the case where there is more than one acquirer, each one must meet the expected requirements of integrity and financial strength.
Due diligence verification
– must not have been convicted of a crime for offenses punishable with a maximum statutory penalty of more than five years;
– must not have been convicted of a crime for offenses under law 401/1989 (sporting fraud and match-fixing) and the law 376/2000 (anti-doping);
– must not have been convicted of a crime of fraud and embezzlement;
– must undergo, with favorable results, verifications pursuant to legislative decree no. 159/2011 (anti-mafia) and subsequent amendments.
Financial solidity requirements:
A declaration must be presented to the league from a prominent national and/or foreign financial institution with whom the acquirer has conducted business for at least a year that attests the acquirer:
– disposes of solid financial means and has earned the confidence and respect of financial and economic operators;
– has a solid banking profile and is considered trustworthy;
– has always fulfilled his business obligations with regularity and punctuality and, at the date of declaration, possesses the financial and economic capacity to meet the current and future obligations that come with the acquisition;
– ensures the financial resources for the acquisition originate from their primary economic-social activities or from the availability of other specified legitimate sources.
The non-disclosure of the mandatory documentation, or the missing (even partially) of a single requirement will invalidate, on a sporting level, the transfer of stocks and/or shares to the acquirer and therefore make it impossible for the club to associate itself with the league for the season following the acquisition.