Brescia is situated at the foot of the Alps in the Lombardy region, and has had a football team representing the city since 1911.
Brescia Calcio enjoyed its most successful period of its 104-year history in the early part of the millennium. From the 2000/01 season, fans were able to enjoy five consecutive seasons in the Italian top flight, watching the likes of Roberto Baggio, Josep Guardiola, Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo before the club were relegated during the 2004/05 season. Since then they have graced the top flight only once and that was during the 2010/11 season.
Holding the record for the most amount of seasons spent in Italy’s second tier (53 in all) a glance at this years league table will see that the Biancoazzurri sit second from bottom. Further investigation will see they have also had 6 points deducted. This point’s deduction came as a result of financial irregularities. So what’s gone wrong?
Participation in the 2014/15 Serie B campaign was already in serious doubt during the summer of 2014 and drastic measures were needed to ensure the clubs survival. These measures began back in July 2014, with the removal of club president Gino Corioni (although he remained as owner of the club). He was replaced by Luigi Ragazzoni, handpicked by the UBI bank who had become guarantors for the club by acquiring Corioni’s shares. Local entrepreneur Marco Bonometti then sponsored the club which enabled them to enrol for the 2014/15 Serie B season.
Ragazzoni’s mandate was to try and balance the books and return the club to a firmer financial footing whilst looking for potential investors or even better someone to purchase the club.
In a statement, Ragazzoni made the size of his task clear by pointing out some of the economic hurdles which stood in the clubs way. Firstly the size of the fan base Brescia had in comparison to some of its local rivals. Using Atalanta as a comparison, Ragazzoni observed that “In Serie B Atalanta had 20,000 season ticket holders where we had 2000. During the first season with Roberto Baggio in Serie A, Brescia had 14,000 season ticket holders and despite the high profile signings of Guardiola, Toni and others the numbers dropped.”
Talks continued and in November of 2014 former executive of Vicenza, Palermo and Sampdoria, Rinaldo Sagramola, expressed an interest in the club with some financial backing of software company Profida. A 12 page document which laid forward a plan to invest nine million euros in the club over the next five years was presented.
As talks continued between the parties it was during January 2015 that a statement from Brescia Calcio then revealed the full extent of the clubs economic position and gave some explanation as to why the situation occurred.
“During the 2013/2014 season our team played in Serie B. Needless to say, this was a very troubled season in sporting, technical and financial terms. Having finished sixth in the league and lost in the playoffs in 2012/13, the minimum goal for the 2013/14 season was to reach the playoffs with the intention of securing promotion to Serie A. With this goal in mind we set up a team that was very expensive but one that wasn’t even able to reach even the minimum goal we hoped for. In the course of this troubled season there were five coaches, and the players who we thought we could exploit in the transfer market were injured meaning we were unable to sell them. These facts have prevented the team achieving their sporting and economic aims, such aims you would expect from such an expensive squad. ” The club then revealed a total debt of nearly nine million euros.
The situation became such a concern that even Italy legend Andrea Pirlo, who started his career at Brescia’s youth academy and wore the jersey from 1994 to 1998, gave his thoughts on the situation. “I spoke to important people, those who really mean something in this fight. You know how much I care about Brescia, so I’m suffering to see the club I grew up in and the one I support in this situation.”
Talks have continued with UBI bank and Sagramola, who is heading the Profida investment plan in which their vision for the club includes a new stadium.
An in-depth review carried out on behalf of the Profida group by ‘Infront’ – one of the leading international sports marketing companies in the world – led some investigations to take into account the interest of the city. Firstly the interest in saving the club and also building the new stadium. The idea was to create a multifunctional facility enabling the local community to enjoy state of the art facilities.
In March 2015, a statement was released confirming that after a 24-year spell, the Corioni family was no longer in control of the club. Brescia Holdings, the new name of the company headed by Sagramola, acquired 99.8% of the club with 0.2% still being held by former President Luigi Corioni.
Giuseppe Ciocchetti, CEO of Infront Italy, confirmed interest in pursuing plans of a new home for Brescia. “We always hoped that the transfers of Brescia could be successfully concluded and finally they have been,”Ciocchetti continued by saying “We are talking about an important reality and Riccardo Sagramola a football expert has worked hard to make this happen.”
It remains to see how successful this project will be as Brescia look certain to be playing Lega Pro football next season. This will be another blow to the Biancoazzurri’s financial situation but for now the club survives and for Brescia fans that is at least one saving grace.
By Mark Neale Twitter @neale_mark